Why I’m Embarrassed (Sort Of) to Live in the Philly Suburbs

Illustration by Nurit Benchetrit

Illustration by Nurit Benchetrit

I lean back in the salon chair, making small talk with Jacques as he squishes shampoo through my hair. We’ve ticked through most of the conversation-starters — kids, pets, work — so I know it’s coming. And of course it does: “So where do you live?” he asks.

I close my eyes, brace myself — because I know exactly how this conversation will pan out — and answer: “Yardley.”

His reply comes rapid-fire, like clockwork: “Really? I thought for sure you lived in the city. You look like a city girl.”

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Philly’s Rich Areas Are Getting Even Richer


Photo Credit: Montgomery County Planning Commission via Flickr

Philadelphia is the poorest of the 10 biggest cities in the country. At the same time, Bloomberg Business reported last week that the metropolitan area is the 19th richest nationwide.

And now, there’s this news: An analysis by City Observatory found that the median income of the Philadelphia region’s wealthy and middle-income neighborhoods grew at about twice the rate of its poorest neighborhoods between 2000 and 2010.  Read more »

MAP: Where Income Inequality Is the Worst in Philly

We’re starting to wonder why the Occupy movement didn’t start in Philadelphia.

For the umpteenth time in the last few years, a study has just come out showing that the Philly region is one of most unequal areas in the country. The Urban Institute looked at income and educational inequality in the nation’s largest “commuting zones” — which are similar to metropolitan areas — and found that Philadelphia had the second-highest degree of disparity in 2010. Read more »

Want Your Kids to Grow Up Rich? Move to Bucks

Place matters. | Shutterstock.com

Place matters. | Shutterstock.com

Predicting someone’s future income is not like scouting baseball talent. Statistics on height, weight, arm strength don’t apply. Household income matters, we know that already. But what about kids who grow up with parents in the same tax bracket? It seems farfetched to project which of them will be better equipped to climb the socio-economic ladder, right?

Maybe not, according to a massive new study out of Harvard that has sociologists buzzing.  The researchers posit that a child’s geographic location is a strong predictor of future financial success. Because the study was focused on low-income families, it suggests that place is correlated with upward mobility. “The data shows we can do something about upward mobility,” one of the authors, Raj Chetty, told the New York Times. “Every extra year of childhood spent in a better neighborhood seems to matter.” Read more »

If Philly Swallowed the Suburbs, Would It Boost the Regional Economy?

Photo Credit: Montgomery County Planning Commission via Flickr Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/citified/2015/04/13/rich-white-people-self-segregate-more-in-philly-burbs-than-most-anywhere-else/#7D0TfaUjAgj3oYsz.99

Photo Credit: Montgomery County Planning Commission via Flickr

The Philadelphia region is fifth-most fragmented big metropolitan area in the country, according to a new study by political scientists at University of Illinois at Chicago.

In other words, the metro is a mess of separate and (often) competing governments. Temple University’s sociology department puts the number of municipalities in the Philly region at a whopping 370-plus.

Chicago is the most fragmented large metropolitan area in the nation, followed by Pittsburgh, St. Louis and New York. Conversely, some of the metros that scored the lowest on the researchers’ “Fragmentation Index” were Baltimore, Memphis and Washington, D.C.

Is political fragmentation dragging down the economy of the entire Philadelphia region? Read more »

Rich White People Self-Segregate More in Philly ’Burbs Than Most Anywhere Else

Researchers from the University of Minnesota mapped where wealthy white people cluster, as well as where poor people of color are concentrated, in 15 of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas.

They found that the Philadelphia region has 70 “racially concentrated areas of affluence,” the second-highest amount out of the 15 locations that were studied. Boston was No. 1, with 77 areas of concentrated affluence.

All of the areas of concentrated affluence (seen in red in the images below) are situated in Philly’s suburbs. Conversely, the Philly metro has 86 “racially concentrated areas of poverty” (seen in blue below), nearly all of which are located in the city.

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Philadelphians, Suburbanites Are Ripping You Off



Philadelphians, you are being ripped off. No, not by the government. Nor the parking authority. Nor even the overpriced coffee shop on the corner. You’re being ripped off by none other than me. And my friends. And my neighbors. And it’s time you did something about it.

That’s because the people I know are ripping you off pretty much every weekend (and many weeknights, too). Don’t believe me? Take a look at center city’s streets on a Saturday night. Or the squares on a Sunday afternoon. Go to an Eagles or Phillies game. Ride up and down Kelly Drive. There are lots of Philadelphia residents there, of course. But there are also lots of non-Philadelphians. There are families from New Jersey, tourists from Chicago, and empty-nesters from Lower Merion. We’re all going into town. It’s fun. It’s safe. It’s inviting. We’re using your restaurants and taking advantage of your entertainment. But we’re not paying our fair share. And that’s why you’re getting ripped off.

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Are Suburban Schools Immoral?

suburban schools


Quick question on the first day of kindergarten in Philly public schools: Is it actually immoral to take your kid and flee the city for suburban schools?

Silly question, right? After all, city families have been fleeing to the ’burbs (or to private schools) for decades. We don’t really blink at the process, because of course the right answer to the question is to do whatever it takes to get your child the best education possible.


But maybe there’s an alternative argument.

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Live in Radnor? Better Not Say You’re From Philly

radnor township

Hey, youse guys! You are not from Philadelphia, got that? Image of not-Philadelphia via Wikipedia

Hillary Kelly wrote a ridiculous piece for the New Republic a few days ago to say that unless a person is from Philadelphia County proper — “inside the city lines” — they should not say they’re from Philadelphia, and particularly not at a party. Those who falsely make the Philly-native claim are liars, she says, and are not entitled to imply that they have certain qualities that are her own:

I’m proud to come of my hometown—proud that, as a kid, I could rattle off Philly’s neighborhoods and understand the cultural intricacies of each one, a kid who loved watching the cityscape change as I took the bus deeper into Philly to my grandmother’s house, who knew which areas were dangerous and which were gentrifying (thanks to my father, a police officer).

She then says, “I can’t deny my urban elitism” and moves right along with the essay as breezily as if she’s skipping down a sidewalk on a sunny day. I know little about Hillary Kelly, but I’m guessing she can’t be more than, say, 33 because I can’t imagine anyone older than that gliding past a confession of elitism without recognizing that it needs to be interrogated intellectually. (And it should be noted that many, many people in their 20s and 30s recognize this as well.)

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Census: Philadelphians Are Moving to Montgomery County

Photo | shutterstock.com

Photo | shutterstock.com

Despite the fact that the American Dream has changed, and no longer necessarily signifies the white picket fence and 2.5 children living in the ’burbs, a Census report that was recently released includes Philadelphia and Montgomery County in the top 25 “pairs of counties with the largest number of people moving from the origin to the destination, minus people moving in the other direction,” according to Business Insider. (Net annual population flow from Philadelphia County to Montco between 2007 and 2011: 5,236.)

This means that large numbers of Philly residents left the city between 2007 and 2011 specifically to live in Montgomery County.

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