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How Philly’s poverty rate has changed since 1970, by district

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It’s as high as 45 percent in some neighborhoods

Philadelphia maintains the highest poverty rate among the biggest U.S. cities.
Flickr/Terry Robinson

A new report released by Center City District and the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CPDC) reveals startling statistics about the city’s growing poverty problem, revealing where in Philly rates are as high as 45 percent.

The report, “Philadelphia: An Incomplete Revival,” sheds light on what it calls Philly’s “shamefully” high rate of poverty and argues that a comprehensive tax reform is needed to fix the problem.

Currently, Philly’s poverty rate is 25 percent (adult poverty rate) and 38 percent (child poverty rate), giving the unwanted distinction of having the highest rate in the nation among the 25 most populous U.S. counties. In the neighborhoods of northern Philadelphia and Kensington, the poverty rate is nearly double the city’s rate, surpassing 44 percent.

Meanwhile, the city’s job growth rate between 2010-2015 was 1.1 percent—significantly below the nation’s average of 2.2 percent.

This map, which separates the city into the Philadelphia City Planning Commission Districts, puts it all into perspective.

The report, which includes the most available data from the U.S. Census Bureau, confirms a 2016 analysis by City Observatory, which determined that concentrated poverty was spreading in Philadelphia, based on data from 1970 to 2010.

How did Philly get to this point? It’s a long and complicated history, but it all began when working class residents began moving to the suburbs in droves, as the city’s industrial-manufacturing industry went from boom to bust. This mass exodus between 1970 to 2000 totaled a loss of 431,059 residents—a number that was 12 times greater than the number added of Philadelphians living in poverty.

This reduction in Philly’s population forced the poverty rate up to 23 percent in 2000. If the residents had stayed put, the poverty rate would have been 17 percent.

Despite Philly’s recent renaissance and influx of young adults, the report points out that the city still has a long way to go to bring its poverty rate down. Things that could help: Investing in the city’s public schools system, which would potentially bring down the 24 percent departure rate from Greater Center City that occurs when kids reach school age, according to the report.

The report argues that Philly’s “antiquated tax structure” needs a reboot, which relies heavily on wage and business taxes and less on property taxes. The authors argue for the passage of Joint Resolution 2016-3, which aims to bring the Philadelphia wage tax down to 3 percent. Currently, it is 3.92 percent for residents.

The bill will be voted on this spring. If it passes through legislation, it could be put on the ballot for voter’s consideration this fall.