Reading, Pennsylvania, Leads Nation’s Cities in Poverty Rate

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
How does a community, in which more than four out of every 10 people are poor, make a go of things? That’s what the residents of Reading, Pennsylvania—the nation’s poorest city—would like to know.
Ten years ago, the economic situation was already trending downward in Reading. Its jobs base, grounded in the manufacturing of telecommunications equipment and automobile parts, was starting to disappear. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it ranked No. 32 in terms of its poverty rate (the percentage of the local population living below the federal poverty level).
The Department of Health and Human Services defines poverty as $22,350 annual income for a family of four or $10,890 for an individual.
Today, the city of 88,000 finds itself with the highest poverty rate in the U.S. (among cities with 65,000 people or more). With 41.3% of its residents considered poor, Reading has passed Flint, Michigan (41.2%), a community ravaged by the decline of the American auto industry, as the worst of the worst-off in America.
Other cities with high poverty rates include Bloomington, Indiana, and Albany, Georgia (both at 39.9%), followed by a slew of towns in Michigan (Kalamazoo 38.8% and Detroit 37.6%) and Texas (Brownsville 38.6%, College Station 37.3% and Pharr 37.1%). Gary, Indiana, also makes the bottom ten at 38.3%.
The fastest rise in poverty took place in Greenwood County, South Carolina, where the rate doubled to 24% in just three years.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Data Show County’s Pain as Economy Plummeted (by Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times)


Naps 12 years ago
i was born and raised in this city. and the biggest possible reason for this city to be in the shape that it is in is welfare!!!! i can't tell you how many people i know that have moved here from new york and jersey simply for the fact that they can receive higher amounts of government have thousands of women having 3 or 4 kids with 2 or 3 different got parents who will try they're hardest to get they're child diagnosed with add just to collect more government assistance.i know women that have lost custody of all 4 of her children yet she collects food stamps for 4 i don't wanna hear the pissing and moaning from anyone in that city because half the folks eat better then a lower class family that actually works for a living.i know guys on welfare who will get an interview at coca cola and before the employee can say a sentence.the guy will stop him and say look? i don't want this job,im just hear cuz welfare is making me look for a job,and when the coca cola employee tries to report the guy,nothing is done,welfare has destroyed my city.the majority of the people that live there are leeches that want to do nothing but consume and make babies like a conveyor belt at a cabbage patch factory. that is the truth!!! and i pray that the folks who do work and teach they're children how to provide for themselves somehow someway make it out.
Living in Reading 12 years ago
yes. we are poor. very poor. this goes without mention of those who are almost able to qualify for programs that could help. we bring home less then those who are able to qualify. i work very hard for a small salary and can barely afford my less then 400.00/month mortgage. my children eat poorly because that is all i can afford. enter in diabetes and poor health insurance. what upsets me is that in order for me to have the privilege to at least have my job (and believe me i am thankful for that), i have to be drug tested and i am ok with that. what i am not ok with is the fact that people who apply for welfare and social security do not have to take a drug test to get on it, nor must they comply with random drug tests to remain on it, like we do at my company. if i have to do it to earn the money that supports people in this position, why don't they have to comply with this same set of rules in order to receive it? while this won't solve all the problems, it will solve some of the problems -including a reduction in who receives welfare and social security- which would leave it for those who really need it.
Grand Republic 12 years ago
reading was destroyed by incompetant politicians and an indifferent deals by the establishment of both parties and wall street greed which moved factories finished off what was left.lazy good for nothing real estate investors than moved in for he kill.they bought up beautiful properties and wrecked them.charging high rents,illegally converting some homes to apartments and rooming houses destablizing whole for those blind people in a dream world;who despite the lack of jobs, and 'reforms and reductions for two decades,in safty net programs, still gripe about 'welfare'and other programs for the poor.get real!what do you want?mass homelesness,more hunger?higher crime and even even less economic activity if the money circulates through the businesses that are left and still providing employment are reduced or eliminated.don't be so smug!maybe you will need help someday?reading is the vangaurd of what is to come for many more american cities until illegal,immigration s curtailed and manufacturing returned to this country.
Whatnow 12 years ago
this city is awful. you have 20 year old men and women getting disability checks for depression and anxiety. no jobs! i guess not if you have a criminal record arm length but yet these people manage to buy drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.
NDPundit 12 years ago
"how does a community, in which more than four out of every 10 people are poor, make a go of things?" it doesn't. i used to teach in reading. the people have no pride in their community and they fight anyone who tries to help them. i'm not one to blame victims for social inequity, but unless that city's residents focus on bettering that place it'll only get worse.

Leave a comment