Philadelphia Metropolis


Good News, Bad News

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The city has been reveling in a lot of good news lately (Welcome back, Cliff Lee). On the other hand, there's the recent release of income data from the Census Bureau that throws some cold water on us.

It shows that Philadelphia is getting poorer.

Cliff Lee  Use this.jpgThe data, from the American Community Survey, breaks down Median Household Income by city neighborhood.  The Inquirer has a piece on it today that includes a chart that shows neighborhoods where income declined this decade in blue and those where income went up in red.

The chart is mostly blue.

Step back and take a look at the city as a whole and the news is still bad.  When inflation is taken into effect, Media Household Income in Philadelphia declined by nearly 30 percent in this decade.

In 2000, MHI was $38,512. In 2009, if it kept up with inflation, it should have been $39,500. Instead, it was $37,045, according to Census Bureau.

Philadelphia has its share of well-to-do residents (12% of all households have incomes over $100,000 a year), but most of the city is clustered at the bottom of the income ladder, with 37% of households bringing in less than $25,000 a year.

The have-and-have-nots tend to be divided by race and ethnicity. In 2009, for instance, the average income in white households was $46,769; in Asian households it was $38,836, in black households it was $29,460, among Latino households it was $22,972.

(The 2009 data is done by survey, so it has a margin of error that varies from statistic to statistic.)

In some ways, the 2009 data is a snapshot of a city in recession. Unemployment hovered above 10 percent for most of the year. Residents took a lot of economic hits. The poverty level increased.  The overall number of jobs declined.

Stop me if this story sounds familiar - because it is the story of the last 40 years in the city.

There are bright spots: population has stopped declining and the numbers for 2010, due to be released next week, may show population growth.  The Eds & Meds sector of the economy is growing, despite the recession. Center City, where so many Philadelphians work, is doing well, even in the economic downturn.  The Phillies has Four Aces. The Eagles have Michael Vick. But, in many neighborhoods, the reality of everyday life is defined by low income and grinding poverty.


-- TF


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