Philly’s Rich Areas Are Getting Even Richer

Meanwhile, very poor neighborhoods are experiencing the slowest rate of income growth.


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. 

City Observatory’s Daniel Hertz sorted census tracts in the Philly metro into six groups, according to their median incomes: those whose median income was less than $25,000 in 2000 (there were 153 tracts in that category); between $25,000 and $50,000 (there were 578 tracts); between $50,000 and $75,000 (507); between $75,000 and $100,000 (163); between $100,000 and $125,000 (30); and between $125,000 and $150,000 (7). Then, Hertz determined how much the median income in those areas grew from 2000 to 2010.

The poorest census tracts (below $25,000) experienced the slowest rate of median income growth among the six groups, at 12 percent. Other areas saw their incomes grow at a faster pace. Census tracts with median incomes between $100,000 and $125,000 in 2000 grew by 25 percent; those with median incomes between $125,000 and $150,000 grew by 26 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, neighborhoods with median incomes between $25,000 and $50,000 also grew by about the same rate, at 24 percent.

Hertz also examined income growth in Chicago, Detroit, Miami and Portland. It’s interesting that, among the cities he studied, the census tracts with median incomes of more than $100,000 experienced the fastest income growth in the Philadelphia region.

“For income segregation to be declining, low-income neighborhoods have to see faster income growth than more affluent ones,” Hertz wrote. “If the opposite is happening—or even if gains are equally distributed—then we’re not making progress on income segregation.”

In other words, the Philadelphia metropolitan area isn’t making progress on income segregation. Regular readers of Citified know that this isn’t new: According to more than one study, the region is one of the most unequal areas in the country.