The Crisis

The effects of poverty extend beyond the individual: lost tax revenue, increased tax burdens, and a deterrent to the location of new businesses, jobs and income earners.  All Philadelphians have a vested economic interest if not moral imperative to fight poverty, as poverty diminishes the quality of life for everyone and tarnishes our city’s reputation as a vibrant, thriving place to live, work, and play.


Philadelphia has the worst poverty rate of the ten largest U.S. cities.


Nearly 1 out of every 2.5 children lives below the poverty line.

Twenty-eight percent (28%) of Philadelphians—between 430,000 and 440,000 people—live below the federal poverty level, including 39% (135,000) of our children, 27% (265,000) of work-age adults and 17% (32,000) of seniors.

About 1,500 families become homeless every year. Children are the most frequent users of emergency shelter, outnumbering adults almost 2 to 1.

Many Philadelphians live above the federal poverty line but still struggle to make ends meet and face difficult choices between paying a utility bill and putting food on the table.

Philadelphia has been slower to emerge from the 2008 global recession than elsewhere in the country.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were fewer jobs in Philadelphia in 2012 than there were in 2011, and fewer jobs than there were in 2008, the first year of a two-year recession.

historicalThe unemployment rate has decreased in 2013, but not by enough.  Too many people are still out of work


Employment opportunities don’t match the qualifications of Philadelphians.

Jobs in education and the health services have increased 18% in the last ten years. Twelve of Philadelphia’s fifteen largest employers in 2012 were in the education and health sectors.  The jobs in these sectors require skills and higher education or post-secondary training lacking by many Philadelphians who want to be in the workforce.

It is estimated that by 2030, 600,000 Philadelphians (nearly 39% of the current total population) will not have the skills to secure the types of jobs that will be available in Philadelphia as we live in an increasingly global economy.


In large parts of the city, participation in the labor force is less than 65%

Today, more than 500,000 (42%) adults in Philadelphia do not participate in the labor force.  Employment and family-sustaining wage prospects are particularly daunting for those without a college degree, as increasingly more jobs require postsecondary education.  Especially hard hit are the 300,000 formerly incarcerated Philadelphians who face multiple barriers to securing employment, such as low literacy skills, lack of a high school or college degree, employer reluctance, or lack of a social network to connect them to job openings and stigma.

The achievement gap continues to grow in Philadelphia.

While Philadelphia has made strides in raising the four-year high school graduation, achievement still lags behind state and national averages.

Lower levels of education are strongly correlated to poverty.

Research suggests that gaps in high school achievement between low- and middle-income students begin in the very early school years and are compounded by summer learning loss that too often becomes an insurmountable hurdle by the fifth grade.

Many Philadelphia communities lack sufficient high-quality early childhood education options.

Philadelphians who are eligible for assistance are under-enrolled.

Despite high poverty, unemployment and low wages, Philadelphians are under-enrolled in the federal benefits to which they are entitled and that are designed to boost income and help ameliorate the effects of poverty.

eitcOf the 215,000 Philadelphia residents who are eligible for the earned income tax credit (EITC), 45,150 (21%) do not even apply.

snapNearly 500,000 city residents receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, but 180,000 qualified Philadelphians are not enrolled.

insuranceFifteen percent (15%) of Philadelphians are without health insurance, despite the availability of public options like Medicaid, Medicare, Medical Assistance, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare.

We cannot succeed as a city and region if hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are so disconnected from the resources needed to live in a decent home, have enough food to eat, support themselves and contribute to society through a job, or make a better life for themselves or their children.