Local Census Data: Poverty Rises Sharply in Most Parts of Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and Keystone Research Center jointly issued the following press release on the Census Bureau's report on poverty at the state and local level.

Nearly one in five Pennsylvania children live in poverty

Poverty has risen sharply in most regions of Pennsylvania, highlighting the widespread impact of the recession and the need for policymakers to protect struggling families and invest in building a stronger economy.

In urban areas of Pennsylvania, poverty rose to 14.7% in 2010 with 1,360,202 urban residents currently living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. That is up from 12.7% in 2007, before the recession started. The picture is similarly bleak in rural Pennsylvania where 9.5% of residents (287,982 people) lived in poverty in 2010, up from 8.1% in 2007.

“Many families in all parts of Pennsylvania are feeling the worst effects of this economy,” said Mark Price, PhD, Labor Economist for the Keystone Research Center. “Our state leaders have responded by cutting our kids’ education and affordable health care for working Pennsylvanians. That is making life harder for struggling families and undermining economic growth.”

Overall poverty in Pennsylvania rose by a statistically significant margin, going from 11.6% in 2007 to 13.4% in 2010. The number of Pennsylvanians living in deep poverty — the share of the population with incomes below half the poverty line — rose to 5.9% (726,102 people) in 2010, a statistically significant increase.

Most Pennsylvania metro areas also saw statistically significant increases in poverty from 2007 to 2010.

The number of Pennsylvania children living in poverty continued to increase last year amid the recession, according to the Census data. In 2010, 18.8% of Pennsylvania kids lived in families that fell below the poverty line, up from 15.9% in 2007. The Pennsylvania rate was lower than the national child poverty rate of 21.2%.

As poverty increased nationwide, African Americans and Latinos have been hit particularly hard by the recession, with 28.4% of African Americans and 33.5% of Latinos living in poverty in Pennsylvania last year. Just under one in 10 non-Hispanic whites in Pennsylvania lived in poverty in 2010.

Pennsylvania’s recently enacted budget contained deep cuts to education, health care and other services that support struggling families, as well as investments that are the foundations of job creation and long-term economic growth.

Policymakers will continue to face tough fiscal choices next year and beyond. Taking a balanced approach that includes revenue and budget reserves instead of a cuts-only approach will be crucial to keeping more families from falling through the cracks and building a stronger economy.  

“Relying heavily on cuts will make it more difficult for working and struggling families to keep a roof over their head and food on the table,” said Michael Wood, Research Director for the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. “We need to take a balanced approach to budgeting so that we can invest in our state’s economy and provide help for those who need it most.”


View more tables detailing poverty and uninsured rates by major metro area and by county.

Poverty has risen in most parts of PA
(2007 to 2010)

  Poverty Rates (%)
Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas 2007   2010
Pennsylvania 11.6% * 13.4%
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ 8.0 * 11.7
Altoona, PA 13.7   12.3
Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA 12.4 * 16.5
Chambersburg, PA 7.8   9.2
DuBois, PA 15.8   16.4
East Stroudsburg, PA 8.7 * 13.6
Erie, PA 14.5 * 17.4
Gettysburg, PA 7.4 * 10.2
Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 8.7 * 10.9
Indiana, PA 20.8   18.8
Johnstown, PA Metro Area 13.9   12.9
Lancaster, PA 8.7 * 10.5
Lebanon, PA 8.6   10.9
Meadville, PA 13.8 * 20.7
New Castle, PA 14.3   16.6
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 11.5 * 12.7
Pittsburgh, PA 11.2 * 12.2
Pottsville, PA 12.0   12.7
Reading, PA 11.3 * 14.1
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre, PA 11.9 * 14.9
Somerset, PA 10.3 * 14.4
State College, PA 15.1 * 20.9
Sunbury, PA 12.9   15.1
Williamsport, PA 12.9 * 18.0
York-Hanover, PA 8.9   9.2

Note. *Poverty rate is statistically different at the 90 percent confidence level from the 2010 poverty rate.

Source. Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center calculations based on the American Community Survey 2007-2010