Quality of life in a community is made up of many components – including physical assets such as the environment and technology, and a community’s residents and their level of involvement.
Berks County residents’ engagement in their community and political process is increasing. Of voting-age residents, 77% of voting-age Berks residents were registered to vote and 57% voted in the 2016 presidential election. While both voter registration and participation have increased in Berks County since 2000, they are both below state levels. When comparing to neighboring counties, Chester and Montgomery both had higher voter registration and voter participation than Berks County, while in contrast Schuylkill County had lower voter registration and participation.
Another measure of residents’ engagement in their community is the level of charitable giving, which shows residents’ willingness to invest in programs and organizations that serve their community. The average charitable donation in Berks County increased by 29% in real terms since 2011, which is a larger increase than that experienced by neighboring counties, the state or the nation. The level of giving (an average of $4,138) is still lower than the average for the state of Pennsylvania or for the country as a whole. When considered in terms of residents’ income, Berks County residents contributed 1.7% of their income, a similar rate to the state and the country. However, while that rate has been fairly constant for Pennsylvania and the U.S., this share represents a slight increase from the 1.4% of income donated in 2011.
Tourism can bring important economic activity to an area, providing jobs as well as the potential for regional pride. Over $797 million was spent on travel and tourism in Berks County in 2014, good for $1,925 per county resident. Tourism spending increased by only 2% from 2005 to 2014, while the state as whole experienced a 10% increase.
Access to the Internet is crucial for households to communicate and search for jobs. In 2017, 84% of households in Berks County had access to the Internet, similar to Pennsylvania and the U.S. This was an increase of 10 percentage points since 2013. When compared to neighboring counties, Berks had a similar share of households with internet access, though Chester (89%) and Montgomery (90%) counties both had higher rates of access.
Beyond jobs and community engagement, environmental factors can affect community life. While dams can provide benefits such as economic activity, renewable power, and flood control, many dams are rapidly aging and come with significant costs. Dams can contribute to water pollution of their related watershed, as well as impacting local environments and habitats. As dams age, their infrastructure can weaken and increase the chance of failure, potentially endangering human life and property. Such dams require monitoring and infrastructure investment to ensure the safety of those in the surrounding areas. Berks County contained 3.6 dams per 100 square miles, for a total of 31 dams in the county, accounting for 2% of the state's dams.
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