New federal report surprises: Philadelphia poverty down, income up [philly.com]

 

Philadelphia’s poverty rate, a stark and stubborn indicator of hard times that has long hindered the city’s reputation, dropped to its lowest level since 2008 — near the start of the recession.

At the same time, median household income here rose.

The findings, contained in a voluminous report from the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday, showed that the city’s poverty rate declined from 25.7% in 2016 to 24.5% in 2018. The number of Philadelphia residents living in poverty dropped by 14,537 — from 391,653 to 377,116 — while the median household income (adjusted for inflation) increased from $43,372 to $46,116.

In a rare and startling addendum to the report, known as the American Community Survey (ACS), the Census Bureau said that the data contained in last year’s release, which depicted poverty, income, and other aspects of life in Philadelphia in 2017, were incorrect. Census officials advised that the erroneous statistics for that year not be used in making comparisons. That admission roiled some city leaders, at the same time confirming their suspicions that those figures had been wrong all along.

Like a busted needle stuck in the red zone, Philadelphia’s poverty rate had not dipped below 25% since 2008. Economists, city officials, and some antipoverty advocates, then, were gratified to see a positive fluctuation in poverty, as well as in household income.

“It’s meaningful improvement, particularly the healthy gain in median income,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “It goes to the strength of the Philadelphia economy, which is about as strong as I’ve ever seen in terms of wage growth, unemployment, and number of jobs.”

To read the full article by Alfred Lubrano, click here.

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