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Despite Income Gains, Poverty Unchanged in Philly

By Kathy Fisher
Policy Manager

National census data released earlier this week showed significant progress in two key indicators of well-being: poverty and median household income.  The poverty rate fell from 14.8 percent to 13.5 percent, and median household income rose by a stunning 5.2 percent, or $2,798 (the largest increase since data started being recorded in 1967). In addition, national data shows that SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) lifted 4.6 million people out of poverty in 2015. The improvements, coupled with the significant decline in the nation’s household food insecurity reported last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (12.7 percent in 2015, down from 2014’s 14.0 percent), show that the country’s economic recovery is on the upswing. 

While income gains in Philadelphia were closer to the national trend with a 5 percent increase ($2,141), it remains the poorest large city in America with a poverty rate that remained virtually unchanged at 25.8 percent (down from 26.0 percent, a drop that is not statistically significant).  Far too many families, veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and children continue to struggle.

Median Household Income

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey
County 2014 2015 Change Pct. Change
Bucks $78,014 $80,575 $2,561 3%
Chester $85,479 $90,503 $5,024 6%
Delaware $63,071 $67,584 $4,513 7%
Montgomery $79,594 $83,254 $3,660 5%
Philadelphia $39,092 $41,233 $2,141 5%

 

Percentage of Population Living in Poverty

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey
County 2014 2015 Change
Bucks 6.5% 6.1% -0.4%
Chester 7.4% 5.7% -1.7%
Delaware 11.0% 10.3% -0.7%
Montgomery 7.2% 6.6% -0.6%
Philadelphia 26.0% 25.8%

-0.2%


These positive trends are hopeful, but we still have significant work to do to ensure that income gains are shared more broadly. The 13.5 percent national poverty rate remains higher than it was pre-recession (12.5 percent in 2007). At 12.7 percent, household food insecurity is also above the 11.1 percent rate in 2007.
 
Nutrition programs— SNAP, school and summer meals, CACFP and more – are effective ways to help those who struggle against hunger and poverty. Nationally, SNAP lifted 4.6 million people out of poverty in 2015, according to the Census Bureau’s latest report based on the Supplemental Poverty Measure. We need to continue to support these programs, as well as to increase efforts to increase good jobs, raise wages, and support other safety net programs.