Children & Youth
Children Living in Poverty


Children Living in Poverty

What does this measure?

The number of children under 18 who live below the federally defined poverty line, expressed as a percentage of all children under 18. Poverty thresholds vary by family composition and year. In 2015, the threshold for a four-person family with two children was $24,250.

Why is this important?

Children raised in impoverished environments are at higher risk for a wide variety of health and social problems, including poor performance in school. The challenges they face in childhood can diminish their chances for successful adult lives. Studies have found that the stress of living in poverty can cause biological changes in children that can lead to long-term health problems.

How is our county performing?

In 2011-15, 22% of children in Berks County lived below the poverty line. This was higher than the statewide childhood poverty rate of 19%, but similar to the national rate. The county's rate rose 9 percentage points since 2000 - a larger increase than in Pennsylvania and the nation, which were up 4-5 percentage points. Within the county, the Central region had the highest childhood poverty rate by far, at 47%, an increase of 16 percentage points since 2000. The next highest rate was in the West region, at 13%.

In the City of Reading in 2015, more than half of children lived below the poverty line, or 55%. This was an increase of 18 percentage points since 2000.

The percentage of children living below the poverty line in Berks County in 2015 was higher than in Chester (9%), Lancaster (16%), Lebanon (17%) and Montgomery (7%) counties. Berks was similar to Lehigh (21%) and Schuylkill (20%). Since 2000, Berks' rate increased more than in any other county.

Notes about the data

For additional detail as to how the Berks County regions are defined and which boroughs and townships are included in each, see the About Us page.

Poverty status is not reported for people in institutions, including college dormitories and military barracks, and people in living situations without conventional housing.

The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The bureau combined 5 years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. However, because the information came from a survey, the samples responding to the survey were not always large enough to produce reliable results, especially in small geographic areas. CGR has noted on data tables the estimates with relatively large margins of error. Estimates with three asterisks have the largest margins, plus or minus 50% or more of the estimate. Two asterisks mean plus or minus 35%-50%, and one asterisk means plus or minus 20%-35%. For all estimates, the confidence level is 90%, meaning there is 90% probability the true value (if the whole population were surveyed) would be within the margin of error (or confidence interval). The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census. Data for this indicator are released annually in December.

There may be additional research available on this topic. Click on Reports and Resources to learn more.

Children Living in Poverty
20002006-102011-15
United States17%19%22%
Pennsylvania15%17%19%
Berks County13%19%22%
Berks County Regions
Central31%42%47%
Northeast5%6%7%
South5%7%8%
Southeast4%6%9%
West7%9%13%
Reading city37%49%55%
Berks County Peers
Chester County5%6%9%
Lancaster County11%14%16%
Lebanon County11%13%17%
Lehigh County14%18%21%
Montgomery County5%7%7%
Schuylkill County12%17%20%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Notes: Multiyear results are from rolling American Community Survey. * Margin of error between 20% & 35% of estimate; ** margin of error between 35% & 50%; *** margin of error greater than 50%.




Number of Children Living in Poverty
20002006-102011-15
United States11,711,49113,980,49715,760,766
Pennsylvania421,745479,472515,473
Berks County12,00318,05720,806
Berks County Regions
Central9,02213,76215,452
Northeast631727854
South9601,5541,873
Southeast4467901,017
West9071,2241,610
Reading city8,76812,80514,504
Berks County Peers
Chester County6,0827,67910,373
Lancaster County13,74017,44819,744
Lebanon County3,1633,8685,301
Lehigh County10,24214,90316,689
Montgomery County8,61811,90113,276
Schuylkill County3,7304,9815,522

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Notes: Multiyear results are from rolling American Community Survey. * Margin of error between 20% & 35% of estimate; ** margin of error between 35% & 50%; *** margin of error greater than 50%.




INDICATORS TREND | BERKS COUNTY
Early Prenatal Care Increasing
Early Prenatal Care by Mother's Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Children Living in Poverty Increasing
Children Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Single-Parent Families Increasing
Single-Parent Families, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Disengaged Youth Maintaining
Live Births to Teen Mothers Decreasing
Change in Population by Age and Gender Not Applicable
Change in Total Population by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Population by Age and Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Foreign-Born Population Increasing
Language Diversity Increasing
Unemployment Rate Increasing
Change in Labor Force Increasing
Employment to Population Ratio Decreasing
Change in Jobs by Sector Not Applicable
Sector Share of Total Jobs Not Applicable
Average Salary by Sector Not Applicable
Change in Average Salary by Sector Not Applicable
People Entering/Leaving Region for Work Not Applicable
Public Assistance Increasing
Local Government Spending Increasing
County Government Spending Decreasing
School District Spending Increasing
Quality Early Childhood Centers Increasing
Prekindergarten Participation Increasing
Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Price Lunch Increasing
English Language Learners Increasing
Students Receiving Special Education Services Increasing
Per Student Spending Increasing
Student Performance on Grade 3 English Not Applicable
Student Performance on Grade 3 Math Not Applicable
Student Performance on Grade 8 English Not Applicable
Student Performance on Grade 8 Math Not Applicable
Student Performance on High School Reading Increasing
Student Performance on High School Math Increasing
High School Cohort Graduation Rate Increasing
Plans of High School Graduates Not Applicable
Education Levels of Adults by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Brain Drain/Gain Increasing
Median Household Income Decreasing
Median Household Income by Household Type Not Applicable
Living Wage by Household Type Not Applicable
People Living in Poverty Increasing
Working Poor Maintaining
People Receiving Federal Food Assistance Increasing
Health Status Decreasing
Managed Medicaid Enrollment Increasing
People Without Health Insurance Decreasing
Physically Inactive Adults Maintaining
Adults Who Are Overweight or Obese Not Applicable
Children Who Are Overweight or Obese Not Applicable
Youth Who Are Overweight or Obese Not Applicable
Occupied Housing Units Not Applicable
Homeownership Rates Decreasing
Housing Affordability for Homeowners Decreasing
Housing Affordability for Homeowners by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Housing Affordability for Renters Increasing
Housing Affordability for Renters by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Age of Housing Stock Not Applicable
Single-Family Home Sales Maintaining
Median Single-Family Home Sale Price Increasing
Tourism Spending Decreasing
Voter Registration Rate Increasing
Voter Participation Rate Increasing
Average Charitable Giving Increasing
Charitable Contributions as a Percentage of Income Increasing
Households With Internet Access Increasing
Dams Not Applicable
Violent Crimes Decreasing
Property Crimes Decreasing
Incarceration Rates Decreasing
Drug Abuse Offenses Increasing
Drug Abuse Arrests Increasing
Protection from Domestic Abuse Maintaining
Means of Transportation to Work Not Applicable
Average Travel Time to Work Increasing
Households Without Vehicles Decreasing
Crashes Involving Alcohol Decreasing