Report exposes personal experiences of those below Philly's poverty line

80 percent devote at least half of income to housing costs

Pat Loeb
September 26, 2018 - 8:22 pm
A family cools off in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — What is life like for the 26 percent of Philadelphians who live in poverty? A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Philadelphia Research Initiative tries to answer that question. 

Much of the report's findings may be what you'd expect: The poor are more likely to be exposed to crime, to move more often, to attend low-rated schools, to have worse health and unreliable jobs, or no jobs at all.

"They also face unique obstacles when it comes to those and other key aspects of life," said Octavia Howell, who gathered information from census data, polls, focus groups and interviews for the report, titled "Philadelphia’s Poor: Experiences From Below the Poverty Line."

One of its most striking aspects are the maps where viewers can see the correlation between high-poverty neighborhoods and police activity, prison admissions, violent crime and unlicensed rental units — a factor, she said, in how high a housing burden they actually face.

"Four out of five poor households in the city lived in private market housing with no rent subsidies," she added, "and of those, 80 percent were devoting at least half their income to housing costs."

On top of that, 30 percent of people below the poverty line who are of working age but not in the workforce reported they were disabled, and another 14 percent reported that they were taking care of someone who was disabled.

The difficulty of getting out of poverty was underscored by the much higher rate of childhood trauma among the poor. But Pew also found that 45 percent of those living below the poverty line didn't think of themselves as poor.

"They compared themselves with people who had less than they did," noted Howell. "If they had the ability to eat, if they had somewhere to lay their head, if they had a social support network, they didn't really think of themselves as poor."