Poverty Rises Sharply in PA and the Nation

Publication Date: 
September 26, 2011

Analysis of CPS report on national poverty and uninsured rates

Press release on ACS data on state and regional poverty rates

Tables detailing ACS data on poverty and uninsured rates by PA county and metro area

As the recession took its toll last year, more Pennsylvanians and Americans fell into poverty, saw their incomes decline and joined the ranks of the uninsured, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau released the results of two annual surveys this month detailing poverty rates at the national, state and local levels. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has analyses of the two surveys.

Current Population Survey: National Data

As this chart shows, recessions typically drive up poverty levels, and the Great Recession has been no exception.

Recessions Drive Up Poverty Rates in PA and the U.S.
Click here
to enlarge chart

According to the Current Population Survey (CPS) released on September 13, the national poverty rate increased to 15.1% in 2010, the highest level since 1993, with a record-breaking 46.2 million American adults and children living in poverty. Median household income also declined, and the number of individuals without health insurance increased again, now approaching 50 million.

The CPS is most appropriate for national level data, but its sample sizes are not as reliable for state-level data. Read the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's full analysis of the CPS data.

American Community Survey: State and Local Data

The American Community Survey, released on September 22, provides more reliable state and local data. That survey shows that poverty rose sharply in most regions of Pennsylvania, again highlighting the widespread impact of the recession and the need for policymakers to protect struggling families and invest in building a stronger economy.

Read the Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's press release on the ACS data and view tables detailing metro and county level data in the ACS.

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 ACS. 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.

According to the ACS, 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.

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