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Philadelphia’s Middle Class—Down But Not Out

A new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts tracks the demographics of Philadelphia between 1970 and 2010. Overall, middle class residents left the city during those decades, but there are reasons for optimism regarding the prosperity of the city.
February 26, 2014, 7am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts finds that the city of Philadelphia’s middle class shrank between 1970 and 2010, simultaneous with a growing proportion of impoverished residents.

“The Philadelphia middle class, a backbone of economic vitality that once made up the majority of residents in most of the city's neighborhoods, has declined in steep numbers since 1970, from 59 percent to 42 percent by 2010,” according to an article by Maria Panaritis detailing the report. Moreover “the share of lower-class Philadelphians spiked from 30 percent to 47 percent as the middle class shrank.”

Panaritis also compares Philadelphia’s demographic shift relative to other cities around the country. “Philadelphia is decidedly poorer than when it was a manufacturing powerhouse, losing even a greater share of higher-taxpaying middle-class residents than the nation as a whole, and failing even to see increases in its upper-class population to match other cities that fared better.”

In article announcing the report, Pew provides a less gloomy take on the study: “The size of Philadelphia’s middle class has essentially stabilized in the past decade after a period of prolonged decline.”

Moreover, the middle class that currently lives in the city is better off than the middle class 40 years go: “Today’s middle-class Philadelphians are better educated and more likely to work in professional or service jobs than their counterparts of four decades ago and other city residents now.”

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Published on Monday, February 24, 2014 in Philadelphia Inquirer -
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