Thursday, September 22, 2011

LOCAL CENSUS DATA: Poverty Rises Sharply in Most Parts of Pennsylvania

Nearly one in five Pennsylvania children live in poverty

View a table with poverty rates by metropolitan/micropolitan region

HARRISBURG, PA (September 22, 2011) — 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 percent 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 percent in 2007, before the recession started. The picture is similarly bleak in rural Pennsylvania where 9.5 percent of residents (287,982 people) lived in poverty in 2010, up from 8.1 percent 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 percent in 2007 to 13.4 percent in 2010. 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 percent of Pennsylvania kids lived in families that fell below the poverty line, up from 15.9 percent in 2007. The Pennsylvania rate was lower than the national child poverty rate of 21.2 percent.

As poverty increases 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 ten 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 a table with poverty rates by metropolitan/micropolitan region

The Keystone Research Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that promotes a more prosperous and equitable Pennsylvania economy. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is a non-partisan policy research project that provides independent, credible analysis on state tax, budget and related policy matters, with attention to the impact of current or proposed policies on working families.

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