Children & Youth
Children Living in Poverty

Children Living in Poverty

What does this measure?

The number of children under 18 who live below the federally defined poverty line, expressed as a percentage of all children under 18. Poverty thresholds vary by family composition and year. In 2017, the threshold for a four-person family with two children was $24,858.

Why is this important?

Children raised in impoverished environments are at higher risk for a wide variety of health and social problems, including poor performance in school. The challenges they face in childhood can diminish their chances for successful adult lives. Studies have found that the stress of living in poverty can cause biological changes in children that can lead to long-term health problems.

How is our county performing?

In 2013-17, 21% of children in Berks County lived below the poverty line. This was higher than the statewide childhood poverty rate of 19%, but slightly higher than the national rate. The county's rate rose 8 percentage points since 2000 - a larger increase than in Pennsylvania and the nation, which were up 4 and 3 percentage points respectively. Within the county, the Central region had the highest childhood poverty rate by far, at 43%, an increase of 12 percentage points since 2000. The next highest rate was in the Northeast region, at 11%.

In the City of Reading in 2013-17, half of children lived below the poverty line, or 50%. This was an increase of 13 percentage points since 2000.

The percentage of children living below the poverty line in Berks County in 2013-17 was higher than in Chester (8%), Montgomery (8%), and Lancaster and Lebanon (both 15%) counties. Berks was most similar to Lehigh (20%) and Schuylkill (18%). Since 2000, Berks' rate increased more than in any other county.

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.

Poverty status is not reported for people in institutions, including college dormitories and military barracks, and people in living situations without conventional housing.

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 three 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 released annually in December.

There may be additional research available on this topic. Click on Reports and Resources to learn more.

Children Living in Poverty
Berks County13%21%21%
Berks County Regions
Reading city37%52%50%
Berks County Peers
Chester County5%7%8%
Lancaster County11%15%15%
Lebanon County11%16%15%
Lehigh County14%21%20%
Montgomery County5%7%8%
Schuylkill County12%18%18%

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 Children Living in Poverty
Berks County12,00319,83119,800
Berks County Regions
Reading city8,76813,82812,995
Berks County Peers
Chester County6,0828,8839,703
Lancaster County13,74018,87619,062
Lebanon County3,1634,7994,590
Lehigh County10,24216,66116,597
Montgomery County8,61812,45313,357
Schuylkill County3,7305,1874,965

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%.