Growing Gap: 6% Living In Poverty In PA’s Wealthiest County

wealth povertyBoasting a median household income of $62,295, Chester County is ranked as the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania and the 24th richest in the nation.

That may be a startling statistic. Even more startling: More than 6 percent of the county’s population lives in poverty, and more than 600 of its residents, were counted as homeless on a single night in January. Many more people, confronted with the high cost of living, are struggling to make ends meet.

St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Glenmoore recently presented a panel discussion on “The Challenges of Poverty in Chester County: Helping Those in Need.” About 50 people attended the discussion, which is the first in a series of planned lectures by the church.

The discussion featured three panelists who deal with poverty in Chester County on a regular basis. They included Patrick Bokovitz, director of the Chester County Department of Community Development; Thomas Burd, executive director of The Clinic in Phoenixville; and Phoebe Kitson-Davis, program manager of Chester County Food Bank Inc.

They revealed some stark truths about the specific challenges faced by the economically disadvantaged living in the midst of prosperity.

Among those challenges, the high cost of housing is perhaps the most significant. The average two-bedroom apartment costs $1,095 per month, according to statistics provided by Kitson-Davis. To pay that, a provider needs an hourly wage of $21.06. Someone earning only $8 an hour would need to work 88 hours per week, just to cover the rent.

When all costs are factored in—health care, child care, food, transportation and taxes—a single parent with one preschooler needs a salary of $51,853, according to “The Self-Sufficiency Standard for PA, 2010-2011,” published by the University of Washington.

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24 responses to “Growing Gap: 6% Living In Poverty In PA’s Wealthiest County

  1. notpbtodayfan

    I would be interested to see how that 6% of the population in poverty is dispersed geographically in the county. Western/South Chester County seem to have much higher poverty levels.

  2. I wonder if the 1500 workers at the new warehouse in Gap will be closer to $8 per hour or $21?

    • David,

      Are you the kind that if the starting salary, for an entry-level position, turns out to be $8/hr that you will talk about it as if all the jobs from the distribution center are $8/hr?

      • No I’m not Tim, but I’m recalling your talk about being under employed and what is the gain if the majority of the people working cannot live on the wages? I would more likely look at the average or even the mean salary in the warehouse, but I can say that for unskilled labor the market in this area is very low and I would be shocked if more than 10% of the workforce at UO ends up being over $10 per hour or less than half of what is needed for a living wage. The Christiana Police just upped their starting salary for an officer with 5 years experience to $16.25 per hour. Assuming they will get 50 cents an hour each year going forward it will take them 10 years to get to a “living” wage. Like many police officers, they will end up working a second job to make ends meet. So, I’m not focused on the $8 jobs, but simply pointing out that the wages available in our area are below what is necessary to live and adding 1500 more to the equation makes it look better because the number of people employed is a higher percentage, but you haven’t cut into the under employed number because they still can’t live on these wages.

        • MIT has a Living Wage calculator: http://livingwage.mit.edu/states/42/locations

          For a single adult:

          – Pennsylvania: $8.67
          – Lancaster County: $8.11
          – Chester County: $10.09

          Now, in PA a single parent raising 2 children needs $22.87 for a living wage, but a two parent household with 2 children drops to only $17.75… Lancaster County is even lower at $17.31.

          Salisbury Township, being in Lancaster County and having a lower cost of living, may be why they chose the location. The Octorara Area, even though in Chester County, should have a similar cost-of-living… but as we know, high taxes (especially in Parkesburg) eat into it.

          • David Jones

            Okay, I thought we were going to have a serious conversation Tim, but this is a joke! I think you spend so much time researching and looking at statistics that you’ve lost your grip on reality! Where do you get an apartment for $531 per month? I’m assuming it includes all of your utilities for that since there is no money on the chart for utilities, so your heat, electric and hot water are all included for $531 per month. You have no phone right? You get a whole $8.07 a day for food, right? I guess you eat the cheapest meal McDonalds has for all 3 meals? You may notice that it all comes out exactly to the dollar? That’s pretty convenient don’t you think? It also means you don’t have a nickel left at the end of the month. In addition to your phone, clothes, and possibly a birthday card for your mother, this is all out of $67 per month? If this is what “you” put up as a living wage then you are beyond reason.

            Follow the chart out to 2 children and 2 adults and now you need a whopping $776 for rent and all utilities including your phone (oh no sorry you can do without a phone). And where are these rentals located exactly? Oh, I also love the 14% deducted for taxes, what a jokester you are Tim. Maybe you can tell us where you get healthcare for $109 a month while you’re at it Tim. You sound like some other politicians I’ve heard lately who say they can live off of food stamps and when they try they don’t even last a week. Try making due with transportation of $262 per month! How did you get the car Tim, did it drop out of the sky? In the real world you have a car payment, you have insurance, you have maintenance on the car, you have registration, you have GAS! And you get all of this for $262 per month? Now, it’s finally becoming clear why you think teachers are over paid. This kind of nonsense isn’t even worth discussing Tim. I’m really surprised you put this junk up and expect people to not look at it critically.

          • David,

            This article used a single parent with one preschooler needing a salary of $51,853 citing “The Self-Sufficiency Standard for PA, 2010-2011,” published by the University of Washington. It is a number you seemed to be basing your criticisms on, and a number that exactly matches the MIT calculator.

            So… do you want a conversation based on facts and statistical data or one based on made-up numbers you feel are more appropriate?

            You seriously don’t think a family can’t live on $19.64/hr? I think it may be you who is out of touch with reality.

          • David Jones

            I’m missing something Tim. I’m reacting to the MIT chart you offered as evidence that $8.11 is a living wage for Salisbury Township. Don’t try to twist it around Tim. Do you stand by $8.11 as a living wage in Salisbury Township or not? This conversation started with what UO will pay in their new warehouse in Gap. You think it’s great to have so many low paying jobs in Gap that it is worth losing valuable farm land, increasing congestion on route 30 east and west and route 41 south and having property owners pay the tax burden for the corporate welfare to make this all happen. I disagree.

          • Ok, wait… so, you agree with the MIT chart that a family of four in Chester County can live on $19.64/hr, but not that a single person with no dependents can live on $8.11/hr in Lancaster County? What are you basing that on other than your gut feeling and your own personal situation, and that of your circle?

            Granted, a person would be living frugally, and without many of the amenities many have come to expect. In fact, I would have expected you to argue against a family of four living on $19.64/hr. Have you seen what gets you a $1000/mo rent in Parkesburg? …and don’t even try looking west of Coatesville for a 3 bedroom at that rate. It is slim pickings.

            You, as a former member of the council, more that the average citizen, should have a grasp of this areas economic situation. You should know the per-capita income, median household income, housing costs, vacancy rates, and a whole list of other data points. However, time and again, local political insiders fall short of grasping this community in its totality.

            Our poverty rate is based on a significantly lower income than the living wage numbers we are debating. If we were to use the living wage numbers that you say are unreasonable to live on as the line, what do you think Parkesburg’s poverty rate would jump to?

          • David Jones

            You know it all don’t you Tim? You know what everybody else did wrong. You know what decisions should have been made at the school and the council 5 and 10 years ago. You even know what I “should” know! If you’re so brilliant why do you support a fellow for Mayor that you yourself refer to as “only” juvenile and moronic? Good luck Tim. If you get on the board I think you’ll need more luck than you realize.

          • No, I don’t know it all David. However, I do know the information is out there, and am willing to hunt it down. Public decisions should not be made based on anecdotes and hearsay, but on hard data and facts. Discussions about the poverty level and living wages cannot be based on what feels right to you or me. The reality and economics of what is a living wage is probably why UO chose Lancaster County rather than Chester County.

            When I first spoke out about taxes in this area, I referenced data and statistics that showed it had a negative impact. The rebuttal from politicians and apologists was based on their feelings, anecdotes, and hearsay. When they did try to use facts and figures, they used Chester County averages which do not work within Parkesburg or the Octorara Area. It showed a clear lack of understanding of the local demographics and economy.

            It is one of the things I have tried to educate people with my Parkesburg Real Estate reports. Chester County numbers do not work within the borough.

            I am open-minded, but if you want to change my opinion then there needs to be more substance backing up your opinion.

  3. I’ll just put my $.02 cents in here for a minute. When I was still living with my Mom on 4th Ave, her Social security check was $615.00 a month. She was not eligible for food stamps. Now had I not been living there and helping her with expenses there is no way she could have made it in a month. I know this isn’t salary I’m talking about here but just how poor she was. i didn’t know for a few years she had let the homeowner’s insurance lapse because she couldn’t afford it. That scared me thinking what would we do if there was a fire. I don’t know what a fair wage is today there for a family of 4 but I don’t know how most people live like that.
    That’s all, I’m done butting in!

    • You’re right Debbie. My mom has an income approximately equivalent to $8 an hour. She lives with me because she couldn’t afford to continue to live on her own. In spite of Tim thinking she just isn’t frugal enough. Tim’s charts leave out a whole list of important costs to argue that $8 is a living “Frugal” wage. Medical costs of $109 per month are ridiculous! The co-pay most people have today is much higher. The choices people have to make in the “real” world to make Tim’s living wage work are similar to what your mom did. They don’t pay for things they absolutely need but cannot afford. When you are not able to afford the basic necessities, that’s how I define whether you have a living wage.

      • Dave,

        Over the last 10 years, how much do you think the taxes have gone up on Debbie’s Mom’s property? I’m betting they increased more than a homeowner’s policy.

        The MIT living wage in the borough for a single person is over $10/hr… a little more than $400/week. If Debbie’s Mom is only bringing in $615/month, then she is not bringing in a living wage.

        This is another example of what I am talking about. You jumped on Debbie’s comment, without even really looking at what she wrote.

  4. Perhaps an aside, but the new food cupboard in town is there to feed hungry residents. They always need volunteers, donations, etc.

    Poverty sucks, the least we can do is help feed all of our neighbors.

  5. Data may not represent the complete picture. Residents in paid for houses and lower incomes say $40-50,000 for two do not feel the financial pinch a couple renting or with a mortgage does. Does the data reflect this? My most recent census info would suggest I’m low income, but with a lower living expense I feel more middle income rather than low. While this is not the norm I doubt I am unique.

    • I agree!! Have you ever seen the headlines about retired folks paying more for prescriptions than living expenses? It pulls at the heart strings, but it paints a picture that is not necessarily true.

      My grandparents are in their 90s, and pay more in medical care than living expenses… but their home was paid in full before retiring, and their living expenses are minuscule.

      At this age, the family keeps one eye on them. When that started, we were all surprised at how well they were actually doing… even being able to save.

  6. Tim our house was paid for too. The mortgage was only $60.00 a month which is nothing now but after my Dad passed she had a hard time meeting expenses. I was 14 and my brother was 18. So she did get extra money for me until I was out of school. I think that most elderly people that can’t afford their medicine just don’t get it. They do without alot of things and that’s a darn shame. I see neighbors go without sometimes too. I help when I know about it. It just makes me sad to see people have to go without things they really need.

    • It comes back the the big question, how is poverty so high in the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania, and the 24th richest in the nation? Bottom line, It is cost of living. This county, while being able to claim higher incomes, has a significantly higher cost of living than much of the state.

  7. This is based on reportable income. There is a whole underground economy that exists and some people don’t accurately report cash income. I am a proponent for a use tax to be implemented to level the playing field. I must report 100% of my income since my business does not operate on a cash basis however I know people who report making $59k/year & have a disposable income of over $90k. Now going to the point of an impoverished people, granted there are those who are in need of assistance. Poverty will always exists. Based on actual poor people who own computers, cell phones, Cable television, air conditioning, play stations and manicures …, not so sure about some of the statistics. I never saw an obituary of someone dying from starvation in Chester County. There are great out reaches and charities who focus on the poor. My concern is, are we enabling a younger generation who expect to live on the “system”? GOD commands us to take care of orphans and widows, not lazy people! The term is “gleaning”! GOD said to leave what lands on the ground for the poor to WORK to gather it for free. Operative word is WORK, not hand out. Grant it there are exceptions and I am sympathetic to some of their circumstances however I am tired of carrying lazy americans through life. Lately our government in my opinion enslaves poor people to depend on it. Lots of poor and disabled people on Facebook bitching about how they were dealt a raw deal. REALLY!!! I ‘m sick of the “What’s in it for me” mentality. There has been a huge social shift in the last couple of decades with society fealing that society owes them a better life. I’m sure our parents had huge obstacles to overcome however they persevered. Again generational indebtedness.
    I feel bad for people with true disabilities and who are unable to take care of themselves. Don’t be a sloth!

  8. “Sloths make a good habitat for other organisms, and a single sloth may be home to moths, beetles, cockroaches, ciliates, fungi, and algae.” According to Wiki…just saying!

  9. What??? He meant sloth as in lazy Joey!

  10. Well not all of the kids are lazy!

  11. Debbie instead of going to the meetings where you are not supposed to ask questions as it is stated on the new policy form part 2 number 5, why not just email everyone on the council including the Mayor? I email them and they give me answers to my questions unless they don’t know the answer, but at least you get a response without attitude. The Mayor was happy to answer my questions.

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