Financial Self-Sufficiency
People Living in Poverty

People Living in Poverty

What does this measure?

The share of residents with incomes below the federal poverty level. Poverty thresholds vary by family composition and year. In 2016, the threshold for a four-person family with two children was $24,339.

Why is this important?

The percentage of people living in or near poverty is a measure of the overall economic health of a region. It also indicates the level of need for social and government supports.

How is our county doing?

In 2012-16, Berks County's poverty rate was 14%, similar to the state and nation. This was an increase of 5 percentage points since 2000, a larger rise than both Pennsylvania (2 percentage points) and the U.S. (3 percentage points) during the same period.

Within Berks County, the poverty rate was highest by far in the Central region, at 32%, followed by 9% in the Northeast and 8% in the West. In Central Berks, the rate increased almost 12 percentage points since 2000, compared to 2 or 3 points in all other regions of the county. In the City of Reading, 39% of residents lived below the poverty line, up 13 percentage points since 2000.

Among surrounding counties, Lehigh and Schuylkill had poverty rates similar to Berks in 2012-16. Rates were lower in all the other counties, including Lancaster and Lebanon (both at 11%), and Chester and Montgomery (both at 7%).Lehigh experienced a 4-point increase in poverty rates since 2000, while Lancaster, Lebanon, Montgomery and Schuylkill all experienced 3-point increases in their poverty rates since 2000. Chester County experienced a marginally smaller increase of 2%.

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.

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

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 3 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 expected to be released annually in December.

People Living in Poverty
United States12%14%15%
Berks County9%13%14%
Berks County Regions
Reading city26%37%39%
Berks County Peers
Chester County5%6%7%
Lancaster County8%10%11%
Lebanon County8%10%11%
Lehigh County9%12%13%
Montgomery County4%6%7%
Schuylkill County10%12%13%

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 People Living in Poverty
United States33,899,81242,739,92446,932,225
Berks County34,20151,99357,329
Berks County Regions
Reading city20,68231,91533,527
Berks County Peers
Chester County22,03229,32035,883
Lancaster County35,55349,40055,977
Lebanon County8,72812,29614,293
Lehigh County28,09541,60445,552
Montgomery County32,21544,17752,250
Schuylkill County13,61216,55118,029

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%.

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