Census Data: Poverty Rises Sharply in Many Parts of Pennsylvania

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New Census data show that poverty rates remained high in Pennsylvania last year, reflecting the ongoing impact of the recession and underscoring the need for state policymakers to do more to lift up struggling families. Median income, meanwhile, has declined in Pennsylvania since the recession started in 2007, according to the new data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS)[1].

The rise in poverty last year can be traced at least partly to decisions made at the state level to cut investments in education, health care and local communities. Those cuts have contributed to high poverty rates by slowing our economic recovery. When state and local governments cut spending, it means fewer public- and private-sector jobs, which takes money out of our economy. In 2011 alone, budget cuts resulted in the loss of jobs for more than 25,000 teachers, first responders and other public servants.  Those layoffs have a ripple effect on the private-sector economy, as well, as unemployed teachers and other workers have less money to spend at local businesses.

PA Poverty Remains High

Overall poverty in Pennsylvania rose by a statistically significant margin over the course of the recession, going from 11.6% in 2007 to 13.8% in 2011, according to the Census data. Pennsylvania’s rate was lower than the national poverty rate of 15.9%. Click here for data on poverty and income by metro area and county.

Nearly one in five children in Pennsylvania live in poverty, according to the data. The child poverty rate, at 19.2% in 2011, also rose by a statistically significant margin, up from 15.9% in 2007. Pennsylvania's rate was lower than the national child poverty rate of 22.2%. 

Poverty Increased in PA and US from 2007 to 2011

Child Poverty increased in PA and US from 2007 to 2011

Many Pennsylvania metro areas also saw statistically significant increases in poverty from 2007 to 2011. Click here for data on poverty and income by metro area and county.

Median Income Drops in PA

Median income in Pennsylvania declined by a statistically significant margin, going from $52,677 in 2007 to $50,228 in 2011, according to the Census data. That is roughly the same as the U.S. median income, which was $50,502 in 2011. Click here for local data on income.

Median Household Income Fell in PA and US from 2007 to 2011

Health Insurance Snapshot

Pennsylvania has a lower uninsured rate than the nation as a whole, with 10.1% of the state’s population lacking health coverage in 2011 compared to 15.1% nationally. Click here for data on health insurance by metro area and county.

This marked the third year that the Census Bureau gathered health insurance data through the ACS, so we are unable to compare health insurance rates in 2011 to those in 2007. Comparing Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate in 2011 to 2010 shows little change, declining from 10.2% to 10.1%. At the national level, there was a statistically significant decline, as the uninsured rate dropped from 15.5% in 2010 to 15.1% in 2011. The decrease in the national uninsured rate is due largely to a number of provisions in the Affordable Care Act, including new rules allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health plans up to age 26.

It is unclear why Pennsylvania did not see the same level of decline in its uninsured rate as the nation, but it may be due to the elimination of the state’s adultBasic health insurance program in early 2011. Enrollment reductions in the state’s Medicaid program that occurred in the latter half of the year could also be a contributing factor.

Uninsured Rate Drops Nationally, Unchanged in PA from 2010 to 2011


[1] On September 13, 2012, the Census Bureau released data on poverty, income and health insurance gathered through the Current Population Survey (CPS). You can read the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s overview of the CPS data at http://pennbpc.org/census-data-number-americans-without-health-insurance.... The ACS has a much larger sample size than the CPS, providing more reliable state-level data, as well as data for Pennsylvania’s major metro areas and counties with populations of 60,000 or more.