Pew Report: Philadelphia Experiences Optimism, Looks to Solve Long-Term Problems
In its summary of “the Big Picture,” the Pew Charitable Trusts State of the City report states: “Philadelphians are optimistic about their city and, better yet, they have good reason to be. The question is whether the positive mood can be harnessed to help the city address its deep-seated challenges.”
Philadelphians’ positivity is at its highest in six years, with 67 percent indicating they expect Philadelphia to improve over the next five years. In addition, Pew highlights the tendency of young adults to remain in Philadelphia long-term as “perhaps the most promising finding” of this year’s report.
The city’s overall population rose to 1,560,297, making 2014 the eighth straight year to see an increase. In regards to racial groups, the highest percentage is black residents, who make up 42 percent of the city’s population. White residents make up 36 percent, and Hispanic or Latino residents 13 percent.
In addition, just over half of the city’s residents (51 percent) are younger than 35.
The Pew report uses both old and new data, as well as the results from Pew’s 2015 Philadelphia Poll, putting the numbers in context by comparing them to nine similar cities — Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.
Philadelphia’s economy saw some bright spots in 2014. Both the poverty and unemployment rates have fallen — the poverty rate dipping to 26.3 percent in 2013 (the most recent data available) and the unemployment falling to 7.8 percent in 2014.
Even so, Philadelphia has the fifth highest unemployment rate out of the nine comparable cities, and the rate remains substantially higher than the national unemployment rate, which comes in at 6.2 percent.
Philadelphia struggles in terms of median income, as well. Though the national median income also declined between 2008 and 2013, Philadelphia’s median income, for both the city and metropolitan areas, declined further — falling 7.9 and 8.2 percent, respectively.
The city ranks eighth out of the comparable cities in terms of median income at $36,836, with just Cleveland and Detroit ranking lower.
In terms of jobs, however, the city saw its biggest 12-month gain in 15 years in 2014, adding 8,800 to the job market. Percentage-wise, job growth rose 1.3 percent, lagging slightly behind the nation’s 1.9 percent job growth in 2014.
Philadelphia now has the fifth highest unemployment rate out of the comparable cities, an improvement from 2012 when it had the second highest rate. However, the city has the second highest number of people ages 16-64 who are out of the workforce — which includes people who are neither working nor looking for jobs — topped only by Detroit.
Philadelphia’s crime rate has continued to fall, and 2014 saw the lowest number of major crimes and violent crimes reported in three decades.
In just three years, major crime has fallen 11 percent, and violent crimes — which includes homicide, rape, aggravated assault and robbery — by 14 percent. 2014 also saw only one more homicide than the year before, in which the city saw the lowest total since 1968.
In terms of police-race relations, 55 percent of Philadelphians trust city police to treat black and white citizens equally. And the city’s police and fire departments have been working to increase diversity within their ranks. Still, though, there is a disparity between the minority representation in the police and fire departments and the city’s population as a whole.
Philadelphia’s school system, much like the state’s school system, is still suffering from financial troubles — an issue reflected in the Pennsylvania residents’ priorities. A recent Franklin & Marshall College poll found “increasing state funding for education” to be Pennsylvanians’ No. 1 concern. Education funding has also been a hot-button issue among the Philadelphia mayoral candidates as the May 19th primary approaches.
According to the Pew report, Philadelphia public schools do not have a favorable reputation in the public eye. Almost half (48 percent) of those polled in Pew’s 2015 survey said the city’s public schools were poor, and another 29 percent said they were only fair. Just 19 percent indicated the schools were good or excellent.
This negative opinion of city schools is reflected in enrollment. In the past six years, the number of students in public schools and Catholic schools in the district has fallen — by 17 and 30 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the number of students attending charter schools has doubled.
The Pew State of the City report also includes sections of data on the city’s housing; arts and culture; and government and transportation. Read the whole report here.