Philadelphia area economic recovery leaving suburban children in its wake

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    A new survey shows many kids in Philadelphia's suburbs are still living on less post-recession.(logoboom/Bigstock)

    A new survey shows many kids in Philadelphia's suburbs are still living on less post-recession.(logoboom/Bigstock)

    Sunny census data released last month hides some dark numbers about child poverty in the Philadelphia suburbs.

    Thousand more kids in Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware and Chester counties are living in poverty than at the beginning of the Great Recession, according to a new report from an area child welfare non-profit.

    Median household income in Pennsylvania grew more by almost 5 percent in 2015, but that figure doesn’t tell the whole story, according to Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth.

    “Child poverty has continued to be a problem in the suburbs, rising during the recession, dipping a little bit now in 2015, but still there are 7,000 more children in poverty today than in the worst years of the recession,” she said.

    The advocacy group crunched the most recent numbers from the annual American Community Survey, and it will  rolling out reports on the four suburban counties over the next few weeks.

    The first focuses on Delaware County, which the Philadelphia Inquirer reported had banner year for income growth in 2015, climbing 7.2 percent.

    Cooper said despite that growth, more kids in Delaware County qualify for subsidized school lunches than during the recession — and not just in places that are historically disadvantaged.

    “The percentage of low-income children grew most in districts that historically had the fewest children who are low income,” she said. Between 2008 and 2014, the number of kids qualifying for subsidized school lunches doubled in well-off Haverford, Marple-Newtown and Radnor school districts, according to the group’s Delaware County report.

    While the report isn’t the first to point out that poverty around the region remained sticky in spite of overall income growth, it zeroed in on child poverty as a broad contradiction to the recovery trend.

    As an advocacy group, Public Citizens for Children and Youth also tied their census findings to policies it promotes, such as raising the minimum wage.

    Kids are left behind when their parents don’t make enough money, according to Temple University Urban Studies professor and group board member Carolyn Adams.

    “Low-income families, some of them may not be participating in the recovering economy, because access to jobs is such a problem in this metropolitan area,” she said, noting that poor public transit to some areas may contribute to that problem.

    The advocacy group reports a lack of social policy protections for children — compared with Social Security and property-tax rebates for seniors, another vulnerable group — also contributes to higher poverty among kids.

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