Children & Youth

More children in Berks County are living in poverty and in single-parent households, with deep disparities among children of different racial and ethnic groups. However, there are positive trends for Berks County’s children, too – many more women are accessing prenatal care, and the teen birth rate has dropped significantly.

Prenatal care, which is critical in reducing risks for complications of pregnancy and birth, was a bright spot in Berks County, with 85% of all mothers receiving prenatal care in their first trimester, higher than state and national rates. In addition, Berks compares very favorably with the state and nation in prenatal care for racial and ethnic groups: In 2019, 81% of Hispanic women, 84% of African American women, 85% of white women and 100% of Asian women in the county received early prenatal care. 

Growing up in poverty puts children at higher risk for long-term health and social problems, diminishing their chances for success as adults. In 2015-19, 19% of Berks children were living in poverty, up 6 percentage points since 2000, a larger increase than the state and nation experienced. Throughout the nation and Berks, poverty is higher for some racial and ethnic groups: In 2015-19, 37% of Hispanic children and 30% of African American children in Berks County lived at or below the poverty line, compared to 14% of white children. The local rates for Hispanic children are higher than for Pennsylvania and the nation.

Children raised by single parents are more likely to grow up in low-income households. In Berks County, 37% of families are headed up single parents, up 11 points from 2000. As with child poverty, there are racial disparities for this indicator nationwide and in Berks. In 2015-19, single parenting was nearly twice as prevalent among Hispanic and African American families (59% and 62% respectively) compared to white (38%) families in Berks County. Rates were up among white and Hispanic families since 2000. The county’s rates for Hispanics and white families was higher than the state and national rates. Fewer African-American families in Berks County were headed by single-parents when compared to Pennsylvania and the US.

About 5% of youths ages 16 to 19 in Berks County were disengaged in 2015-19 – not working or attending school. That’s flat since 2000 and similar to Pennsylvania and the U.S.

Teen births can prevent a young woman from completing her education or becoming financially self-sufficient. Babies born to teen mothers also are at higher risk for poor educational outcomes and living in poverty. Berks County’s teen birth rate fell 53% from 2000 to 2019, from 41 per 1,000 teens to 19 per 1,000. This drop was similar to Pennsylvania, but less than the nation.

Progress has been made over the years to reduce child exposure to lead paint, yet not all children are tested as required by law. The rate in Berks County remains consistently higher than the state and neighboring counties.

Adults Who are Overweight or Obese Not Applicable
Students in K-6 Overweight or Obese Not Applicable
Students in 7-12 Overweight or Obese Not Applicable
Physically Inactive Adults Not Applicable
Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Price Lunch Increasing
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 Decreasing
Live Births to Teen Mothers Decreasing
Population by Age Not Applicable
Children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels Maintaining
Change in Population by Age and Gender Not Applicable
Change in Total Population by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Households by type Not Applicable
Foreign-Born Population Increasing
Seniors Living Alone Maintaining
Language Diversity Increasing
Unemployment Rate Increasing
Change in Labor Force Decreasing
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 County/Region for Work Not Applicable
Public Assistance Maintaining
Spending for Local Governments Maintaining
Spending for Counties Maintaining
Spending for School Districts Maintaining
Prekindergarten Participation Increasing
English Language Learners Increasing
Students Receiving Special Education Services Increasing
Per Student Spending Maintaining
High School Cohort Graduation Rate Increasing
Education Levels of Adults Not Applicable
Education Levels of Adults, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Brain Drain/Gain Maintaining
Plans of High School Graduates Not Applicable
Enrollment in Local Colleges Decreasing
Median Household Income Maintaining
Median Household Income by Household Type Not Applicable
Living Wage Not Applicable
People Living in Poverty Increasing
Working Poor Maintaining
People Receiving Federal Food Assistance Increasing
People Receiving Supplemental Security Income Increasing
Health Status Not Applicable
People Enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care Increasing
People Without Health Insurance Decreasing
Cancer Incidence Decreasing
Prevalence of Mental Illness Maintaining
Vacant Housing Units Increasing
Homeownership Rates Decreasing
Cost of Homeownership Maintaining
Cost of Homeownership, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Cost of Rent Increasing
Cost of Rent, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Single-Family Home Sales Increasing
Median Single-Family Home Sale Price Maintaining
Tourism Spending Maintaining
Voter Registration Rate Decreasing
Voter Participation Rate Decreasing
Average Charitable Giving Maintaining
Contributions as a Percentage of Income Maintaining
Households With Internet Access Not Applicable
Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Establishments Maintaining
Toxic Chemical Releases Decreasing
Violent Crimes Maintaining
Property Crimes Decreasing
Incarceration Rates Maintaining
Drug Abuse Offenses Increasing
Drug Abuse Arrests Increasing
Protection from Domestic Abuse Maintaining
Average Travel Time to Work Increasing
Crashes Involving Alcohol Decreasing
Households Without Vehicles Decreasing