Take a look at the introductory post for more details about this series.
In the last post in this series, I established the basic fact that there is a high level of poverty in Philadelphia, and what this means for real people in everyday life. Now I want to show that poverty in Philadelphia is incredibly unequally distributed. In some neighborhoods, particularly in North and West Philadelphia, the poverty rate exceeds 50%, while in other neighborhoods it is almost non-existent.
Thanks to the American FactFinder database (which I highly recommend checking out), it is fairly easy to produce a map showing the exact breakdown of poverty geographically. Here is the map I made for 2016, by census tract:
The map shows that almost all of North and West Philadelphia, as well as the southwestern portion of South Philadelphia, have exceptionally high poverty rates. In particular, the northern section of West Philadelphia and North-Central Philadelphia are suffering the most.
Conversely, we can quite clearly see that most of south Philadelphia, Center City, Northwestern Philadelphia (Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill, etc.), and the far Northeast are doing quite well. Additionally, the northern section of the riverfront, including Fishtown and Northern Liberties, have very low poverty rates. I personally was surprised to see how quickly incomes rose in that neighborhood.
I’ve zoomed in on a couple areas of Philadelphia and labelled particular census tracts to highlight the stark inequality of incomes. The program only lets you label up to 20, and I had to manually label each one, so bear with me.
First there is West Philadelphia. Almost all of West Philadelphia has a very high poverty rate, even University City, where the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University are. Mantua and Belmont to the Northeastern section are by far the worst off.
Next, I have highlighted much of South Philadelphia. Note that South Philadelphia overall is better off, but that a fair portion still has a moderately high poverty rate. Point Breeze, to the southwest, has the highest poverty rate, while areas closer to Center City and the Delaware River have very low poverty rates. Today, the areas near the Delaware are Society Hill and Old City, some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city.
Here is Center City and some of North Philadelphia. The region along Broad Street (smack in the middle) is worse off, while the river wards are far better off. The areas to the northeast (Fishtown and Northern Liberties) and the area to the northwest (Fairmount) are recently gentrifying parts of the city—or whatever term you want to use.
Here is much of North-Central Philadelphia. Clearly this is the largest region of the city that is facing severe economic hardship. Although the rest of North Philadelphia doesn’t have as high of a poverty rate, there is a fairly uniform level of around 20-40% even in the wealthier areas.
I have left out the Northeast and Northwest, but I think my point has been made. There is a very clear divide in Philadelphia between the neighborhoods that are suffering economically and the neighborhoods that are flourishing. When we take a closer look at Philadelphia’s high poverty rate overall, we find that it is only the case for particular regions.