Philadelphia’s population continues to grow for the seventh consecutive year after decades of decline, yet Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of the ten largest U.S. cities. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of Philadelphians — between 430,000 and 440,000 people — live below the federal poverty level, including 39% (135,000) of children, 27% (265,000) of working-age adults and 17% (32,000) of seniors (link). Philadelphia also has an alarmingly high rate of “deep” poverty — people with incomes below half of the poverty line. Philadelphia’s deep poverty rate is 12.2 % (link), or nearly 185,000 people including 60,000 children, nearly twice as high as the U.S. deep poverty rate of 6.3%. , By definition, a family of three living in deep poverty would have an income of approximately $10,000 annually, half the poverty rate of $20,000 for a family that size.
It is widely believed that the root cause of deep poverty is “people unable to get jobs for one reason or another,” according to Roberta Iversen, a University of Pennsylvania expert on low-income families. “They can't work for reasons of depression, disability or lack of jobs.” While Philadelphia has made strides in raising the four-year high school graduation rate, achievement still lags behind state and national averages, and lower levels of education are strongly correlated to poverty (link).
The previous Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal edition focused on Philadelphia’s low literacy rate, making the connection that the root cause of un- and underemployment is our low literacy rates. We know that the effects of poverty extend beyond the individual – lost tax revenue, increased tax burdens and deterring new businesses from coming to Philadelphia, which creates jobs and income earners.
The Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal (PSIJ), in partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, and the Knight Foundation, is pleased to offer this 23rd edition recognizing 50 years of AmeriCorps VISTA antipoverty work and celebrating the Anti-Poverty Solutions Spotlight Summit to launch 50 more years of solutions.
All Philadelphians should have a vested economic interest, if not a moral imperative, to fight poverty. Our city’s alarming poverty rates diminish quality of life, and tarnish our city’s reputation as a vibrant, thriving place to live, work and play.
In this edition, you will read about solutions and impact through targeted AmeriCorps VISTA investments. Our objective with this edition is to set the stage for 50 more years of improvement and to rally all Philadelphians to work together and bring hope to the 28% of adults and children in Philadelphia living in poverty. Our goal is to scale successful anti-poverty models to reach more of our city’s poor population.
The time to innovate is now. By the year 2030, 600,000 Philadelphians (nearly 39% of the current total population) will not have skills needed to secure the types of jobs available in Philadelphia. Specifically, jobs in education and the health services have increased 18% in the last ten years and 12 of Philadelphia’s 15 largest employers in 2012 were in the education and health sectors. The jobs in these sectors require skills and higher education or post-secondary training, which many Philadelphians lack (link).
As always, we thank our sponsors, whose support is essential to what we do. We also want to recognize and thank our advisory board members, representing the Barra Foundation, Bank of America, Claneil Foundation, Green Tree Community Health Foundation, Independence Foundation, Inglis Foundation, Knight Foundation, The Patricia Kind Family Foundation, The Philadelphia Foundation, The Public Health Fund, Public Health Management Corporation, Sage Communications, Scattergood Foundation, St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Very truly yours,
Nicholas Torres, Co-Founder
Tine Hansen-Turton, Co-Founder