Financial Self-Sufficiency

How easy is it for Berks County residents to support themselves and their families? The county’s median household income, living wage and percentage of working poor people compare well with Pennsylvania as a whole. However, other indicators may be causes for concern, including increases in the county’s poverty rate and the percentage of residents who receive federal food assistance. Within the county, poverty is highest by far in the Central region, where median income also declined the most since 2000.

Median household income is a gauge of the county’s overall economic health and the financial resources of its residents. In 2013-17, the median income in Berks was $59,600, slightly higher than the state and nation, but down 9% since 2000 (after inflation). This was a larger decrease than at the state and national levels.

There are significant disparities in median income by household type. For households headed by single women with children in Berks County, the median household income in 2013-17 was $24,400. This was roughly half that of single men with children, at $41,500. Married couples without children had a median income of $79,700, compared to those with children, at $90,400. Income decreased for all types of households in Berks since 2000, except married with children which held steady. 

Living wage measures the level of income that households require to pay for necessities, including housing and food, without assistance. In 2018, a family of four with two earners in Berks County would need to earn $16.35 per hour, or $68,000 a year. The living wage for a family of four with one earner was $25.00, or $52,000 a year, and for a single parent with two children, $29.93, or $62,300. This represents a slightly cheaper cost of living than Pennsylvania as a whole.

The percentage of people living in or near poverty is another measure of overall economic health, as well as the need for social supports to help families make ends meet. In 2013-17, Berks County’s poverty rate was 14%, similar to the state and nation. However, the county’s poverty rate rose 5 percentage points since 2000, a larger increase than at the state and national levels. The poverty rate was 30% in the Central region of the county, and ranged from 5% to 9% in other regions.

The percentage of working poor measures people who are working, but earning at or below the poverty line. In 2013-17, 3.4% of Berks County residents could be considered working poor, a percentage similar to the state, but smaller than at the national level.

The share of people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly called food stamps, indicates how many people in the county rely on government assistance to meet basic needs. In 2016, 15% of Berks County residents received SNAP benefits – slightly more than at the state and national levels. This represented a threefold increase since 2000.

Early Prenatal Care Increasing
Early Prenatal Care by Mother's Race/Ethnicity Increasing
Children Living in Poverty Increasing
Children Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity Maintaining
Single-Parent Families Increasing
Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity Decreasing
Disengaged Youth Maintaining
Live Births to Teen Mothers Decreasing
Change in Population by Age and Gender Maintaining
Change in Total Population by Race/Ethnicity Increasing
Population by Age and Race/Ethnicity Decreasing
Foreign-Born Population Increasing
Language Diversity Increasing
Unemployment Rate Decreasing
Change in Labor Force Increasing
Employment to Population ratio Increasing
Change in Jobs by Sector Not Applicable
Sector Share of Total Jobs Not Applicable
Average Salary by Sector Not Applicable
Change in Average Salary by Sector Not Applicable
People Entering/Leaving County/Region for Work Increasing
Public Assistance Maintaining
Spending for Local Governments Maintaining
Spending for Counties Maintaining
Spending for School Districts Maintaining
Quality Early Childhood Centers Not Applicable
Prekindergarten Participation Increasing
Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Price Lunch Increasing
English Language Learners Increasing
Students Receiving Special Education Services Increasing
Per Student Spending Maintaining
Historically Underperforming Student Performance on Grade 3 English Decreasing
Historically Underperforming Student Performance on Grade 3 Math Increasing
Historically Underperforming Student Performance on Grade 8 English Increasing
Historically Underperforming Student Performance on Grade 8 Math Decreasing
Student Performance on High School English Decreasing
Student Performance on High School Math Increasing
High School Cohort Graduation Rate Increasing
Education Levels of Adults, by Race/Ethnicity Maintaining
Brain Drain/Gain Increasing
Plans of High School Graduates Increasing
Median Household Income Maintaining
Median Household Income by Household Type Maintaining
Living Wage Maintaining
People Living in Poverty Increasing
Working Poor Maintaining
People Receiving Federal Food Assistance Increasing
People Enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care Increasing
People Without Health Insurance Decreasing
Physically Inactive Adults Not Applicable
Adults Who are Overweight or Obese Not Applicable
Students in 7-12 Overweight or Obese Increasing
Vacant Housing Units Increasing
Homeownership Rates Decreasing
Housing Affordability for Homeowners Maintaining
Housing Affordability for Homeowners by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Housing Affordability for Renters Increasing
Housing Affordability for Renters, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Age of Housing Stock Decreasing
Single-Family Home Sales Increasing
Median Single-Family Home Sale Price Maintaining
Tourism Spending Maintaining
Voter Registration Rate Decreasing
Voter Participation Rate Increasing
Average Charitable Giving Maintaining
Contributions as a Percentage of Income Maintaining
Households With Internet Access Increasing
Dams Not Applicable
Violent Crimes Maintaining
Property Crimes Decreasing
Incarceration Rates Maintaining
Drug Abuse Offenses Increasing
Drug Abuse Arrests Increasing
Protection from Domestic Abuse Maintaining
Means of Transportation to Work Maintaining
Average Travel Time to Work Increasing
Crashes Involving Alcohol Decreasing
Households Without Vehicles Decreasing