Study: 670,000 Philadelphians Live In Economically Distressed Areas

Philly has fifth-highest number of residents living in disadvantaged ZIP codes among U.S. cities.
Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Forty-three percent of Philadelphians live in “distressed” ZIP codes, according to a new report from the nonprofit Economic Innovation Group.

That adds up to nearly 670,000 people, the report says, giving Philadelphia the fifth-highest number of residents living in such conditions among U.S. cities. The proportion of residents living in those areas — the aforementioned 43 percent — ranked fourth among the 10 cities with the largest numbers of such residents. Detroit, Memphis, and Baltimore had higher percentages of distressed populations.

This chart, the report’s authors said, “provides an estimate of how many people have been left behind by economic development”:

distressed zip codes

The EIG’s report, which focused heavily on income inequality, did not place Philadelphia in its Top 10 lists for “most prosperous” or “most distressed” cities, however. Those lists were dominated by much smaller cities with a much greater degree of uniformity for either poverty or prosperity.

ZIP codes labeled “distressed” were ranked on seven factors: the percentage of population without a high school degree, the housing vacancy rate, the proportion of adults not working, the poverty rate, the ratio of the community’s median income to the state’s, the percent change in the number of jobs from 2010 to 2013, and the percent change in the number of businesses during that same time.

Here’s how Philadelphia stacked up — not well — on those counts, according to the EIG:

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Here’s the profile of the median zip code in the United States in each category:

Economic Innovation Group

These numbers were part of EIG’s “Distressed Communities Index,” released last week. They won’t come as any surprise to policymakers at City Hall. Indeed, Mayor Jim Kenney’s call for universal pre-K is based, in part, on a belief that better equipping young kids for the classroom will improve their economic prospects down the line.

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