Financial Self-Sufficiency
People Living in Poverty

People Living in Poverty

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What does this measure?

The share of residents with incomes below the federal poverty level. Poverty thresholds vary by family composition and year. In 2019, the threshold for a four-person family with two children was $25,926.

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 2015-19, Berks County's poverty rate was 12%, similar to the state and nation. This was an increase of 3 percentage points since 2000, a larger rise than Pennsylvania and the U.S. (both 1 percentage point) during the same period.

Within Berks County, the poverty rate was highest by far in the Central region, at 26%, followed by 7% in the Northeast and West. In Central Berks, the rate increased 6 percentage points since 2000, compared to 0 or 2 point increases in all other regions of the county. In the City of Reading, 33% of residents lived below the poverty line, up 7 percentage points since 2000, however down from 2010-14.

Among surrounding counties, Lehigh and Schuylkill had poverty rates similar to Berks in 2015-19. Rates were lower in all the other counties, including Lancaster and Lebanon (10% and 11% respectively), and Chester and Montgomery (both at 6%). Lebanon and Lehigh experienced a 3-point increase in poverty rates since 2000, while Lancaster, Montgomery and Schuylkill all experienced 2-point increases in their poverty rates since 2000. Chester County experienced a slight increase of 1%.

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%16%13%
Berks County9%14%12%
Berks County Regions
Reading city26%40%33%
Berks County Peers
Chester County5%7%6%
Lancaster County8%11%10%
Lebanon County8%11%11%
Lehigh County9%13%12%
Montgomery County4%6%6%
Schuylkill County10%13%12%

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 States33,899,81247,755,60642,510,843
Berks County34,20157,23948,573
Berks County Regions
Reading city20,68234,28128,049
Berks County Peers
Chester County22,03234,93632,620
Lancaster County35,55354,15153,659
Lebanon County8,72814,37914,715
Lehigh County28,09546,13144,387
Montgomery County32,21550,68847,517
Schuylkill County13,61218,67916,816

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%.

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