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 2018, the threshold for a four-person family with two children was $25,465.

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 2014-18, Berks County's poverty rate was 13%, similar to the state and nation. This was an increase of 4 percentage points since 2000, a larger rise than Pennsylvania and the U.S. (both 2 percentage points) during the same period.

Within Berks County, the poverty rate was highest by far in the Central region, at 28%, followed by 8% in the Northeast and 7% in the West and 6% in the South. In Central Berks, the rate increased 8 percentage points since 2000, compared to 1 or 2 point increases in all other regions of the county. In the City of Reading, 35% of residents lived below the poverty line, up 9 percentage points since 2000, however down from 2009-13.

Among surrounding counties, Lehigh and Schuylkill had poverty rates similar to Berks in 2014-18. Rates were lower in all the other counties, including Lancaster and Lebanon (both at 10%), and Chester and Montgomery (7% and 6% respectively).Lehigh experienced a 4-point increase in poverty rates since 2000, while Lancaster, Lebanon, and Montgomery all experienced 2-point increases in their poverty rates since 2000. Chester County experienced a larger increase of 3%.

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
Berks County9%14%13%
Berks County Regions
Reading city26%39%35%
Berks County Peers
Chester County5%7%7%
Lancaster County8%10%10%
Lebanon County8%11%10%
Lehigh County9%14%13%
Montgomery County4%6%6%
Schuylkill County10%13%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
Berks County34,20155,34851,733
Berks County Regions
Reading city20,68233,15130,375
Berks County Peers
Chester County22,03233,89534,217
Lancaster County35,55353,17752,452
Lebanon County8,72813,95014,073
Lehigh County28,09547,01644,179
Montgomery County32,21548,00749,866
Schuylkill County13,61217,94617,294

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%.