Study: Philly Region’s Divide Between Rich and Poor is Widening

Jobs and wages are climbing, but so is the poverty rate.
Dirk Ercken/Shutterstock

Dirk Ercken/Shutterstock

Over the past 10 years, the Philadelphia region has seen a real-estate boom, job gains and a substantial increase in wages, but poverty and inclusion are still areas of serious concern.

The Brookings Institute took a deep dive into the economies in 100 major metropolitan regions, finding that the Philly metro area saw a 1.3 percent increase in jobs and an 8 percent increase in the total value of wages, salaries and benefits paid to all workers in the past 10 years. But other numbers show a deep divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” — specifically a 6.4 percent increase in the relative poverty rate and a 5.2 percent drop in median wages. Translation: Well-paying jobs are offering higher salaries and lower-level jobs are paying less.

It’s important to note that Brookings describes the Philadelphia region as Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington. It did not measure Philadelphia proper or what we typically describe as the Greater Philadelphia region (the city, its five surrounding counties and South Jersey.)

“Today the U.S. economy has more jobs than before the recession, as do most metro economies. Yet many workers and households are not better off,” wrote Amy Liu of Brookings, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. So rather than just measuring jobs, Brookings weighed three indicators — growth, prosperity and inclusion (including by race) to create a broader picture of economic success.

Check out a breakdown of the numbers below. A few things to note:

  • In the past five years, the region’s “growth” ranked just 82nd out of 100.
  • The GMP (gross metropolitan product) is up an impressive 6.3 percent over the past 10 years and 4.5 percent over the past five.
  • Over the past 10 years, the region’s “prosperity” ranked 45th out of 100 cities, on the strength of a 6.7 percent increase in average wages and a 4.9 percent increase in GMP per job.

10 Years

GROWTH
PROSPERITY
INCLUSION
69th45th50th
Jobs: +1.3%Avg. Wage: +6.7%Employment-to-population ratio: -1.6%
GMP: +6.3%GMP per capita: +1.9%Median Wage: -5.2%
Agg Wages: +8.0%GMP per job: +4.9%Relative Income Poverty Rate: +6.4%

5 Years

GROWTH
PROSPERITY
INCLUSION
82nd60th68th
Jobs: +2.7%Avg. Wage: +2.0%Employment-to-population ratio: 0.4%
GMP: +4.5%GMP per capita: +2.6%Median Wage: -6.5%
Agg Wages: +4.8%GMP per job: +1.8%Relative Income Poverty Rate: 0.0%

1 Years

GROWTH
PROSPERITY
INCLUSION
77th53rd43rd
Jobs: +1.1%Avg. Wage: +1.2%Employment-to-population ratio: 1.7%
GMP: +1.2%GMP per capita: +1.0%Median Wage: -0.2%
Agg Wages: +2.3%GMP per job: +0.2%Relative Income Poverty Rate: -0.9%

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