Financial Self-Sufficiency

How easy is it for Berks County residents to support themselves and their families? The county’s median household income, living wage and percentage of working poor people compare well with Pennsylvania as a whole. However, other indicators may be causes for concern, including increases in the county’s poverty rate and the percentage of residents who receive federal food assistance. Within the county, poverty is highest by far in the Central region, where median income also declined the most since 2000.

Median household income is a gauge of the county’s overall economic health and the financial resources of its residents. In 2012-16, the median income in Berks was $57,070, slightly higher than the state and nation, but down 11% since 2000 (after inflation). This was a larger decrease than at the state and national levels.

There are significant disparities in median income by household type. For households headed by single women with children in Berks County, the median household income in 2012-16 was $23,020. This was roughly half that of single men with children, at $41,100. Married couples without children had a median income of $77,200, compared to those with children, at $89,900. Income decreased for all types of households in Berks since 2000.

Living wage measures the level of income that households require to pay for necessities, including housing and food, without assistance. In 2017, a family of four with two earners in Berks County would need to earn $15.70 per hour, or $65,300 a year. The living wage for a family of four with one earner was $24.10, or $50,100 a year, and for a single parent with two children, $28.36, or $59,000. This represents a slightly cheaper cost of living than Pennsylvania as a whole.

The percentage of people living in or near poverty is another measure of overall economic health, as well as the need for social supports to help families make ends meet. In 2012-16, Berks County’s poverty rate was 14%, similar to the state and nation. However, the county’s poverty rate rose 5 percentage points since 2000, a larger increase than at the state and national levels. The poverty rate was 32% in the Central region of the county, and ranged from 6% to 9% in other regions.

The percentage of working poor measures people who are working, but earning at or below the poverty line. In 2012-16, 3.5% of Berks County residents could be considered working poor, a percentage similar to the state, but smaller than at the national level.

The share of people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly called food stamps, indicates how many people in the county rely on government assistance to meet basic needs. In 2015, 15.4% of Berks County residents received SNAP benefits – slightly more than at the state and national levels. This represented a threefold increase since 2000.

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
Vacant 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