City fathers had a celebratory moment recently when the official count of the 2010 U.S. Census was released, showing that
It was the first time in 60 years that
A modest gain but, hey, still a gain.
"Spectacular!" said Mayor Nutter, who shook his election-year pompoms at a City Hall news conference. "What this is really about is folks recognizing this city is moving in the right direction."
(Until the November election, it looks as if we will be fated to have a mayor who ends all his sentences in exclamation points.)
While people were applauding what happened, scant attention was paid to why it happened.
"We're the city of the future!" was Nutter's explanation. "People can be anywhere. They are choosing to live in
That's his theory. Let me tell you mine.
First, let's look at some factors that did not contribute:
The main reason
We must step 20 years to take a measure of this change. In 1990, there were 95,000 Latinos in the city -- equal to six percent of the total population. Today, there are 188,000 -- equal to 12 percent.
Twenty years ago, there were 48,000 Asians living in
This is just the latest chapter in an old American story. Cities are the entry ports for immigrants and
Thirty years ago in Philadelphia, Asian was synonymous with Chinese and the Asian population was centered in
The remaining 18 percent include Koreans (5%) and Filipinos (5%).
When it comes to economics, the Asians exhibit a balance rarely seen among new groups: About half have annual household incomes at or below the citywide average ($37,000) and half are above it. A dot-map would show that while there is still a heavy concentration in
The Latino population, which grew by 58,000 during the decade, is a different story. Most of them are Puerto Rican (67%), followed by Mexicans (9%) and Dominicans (6%), with the rest from various countries in Central and
How much the Latino growth spurt is due to immigration is hard to say, but it appears that half is due to new arrivals and half due to a high Latino birth rate.
Economically, the Latino population is a basket case. Median household income is around $23,000 a year -- about 40 percent lower than the citywide average. Four out of 10 Latinos live below the poverty line. There are middle class Latinos, but not enough of them-- only one out of four have household incomes over $50,000.
The majority of Latinos are poor and many of them are desperately poor.
As this week's Cover Story (click to read: The Lost Generation) reveals, along with poverty comes the problems associated with being an urban underclass: a high drop-out rate; a high rate of arrest and conviction; a high incidence of violent acts.
In other words, the Latinos of today are very much like the Irish who arrived in
I am allowed to say that because I am Irish.
-- Tom Ferrick