Financial Self-Sufficiency
People Living in Poverty

People Living in Poverty

What does this measure?

The share of residents with incomes below the federal poverty level. Poverty thresholds vary by family composition and year. In 2018, the threshold for a four-person family with two children was $25,465.

Why is this important?

The percentage of people living in or near poverty is a measure of the overall economic health of a region. It also indicates the level of need for social and government supports.

How is our county doing?

In 2014-18, Berks County's poverty rate was 13%, similar to the state and nation. This was an increase of 4 percentage points since 2000, a larger rise than Pennsylvania and the U.S. (both 2 percentage points) during the same period.

Within Berks County, the poverty rate was highest by far in the Central region, at 28%, followed by 8% in the Northeast and 7% in the West and 6% in the South. In Central Berks, the rate increased 8 percentage points since 2000, compared to 1 or 2 point increases in all other regions of the county. In the City of Reading, 35% of residents lived below the poverty line, up 9 percentage points since 2000, however down from 2009-13.

Among surrounding counties, Lehigh and Schuylkill had poverty rates similar to Berks in 2014-18. Rates were lower in all the other counties, including Lancaster and Lebanon (both at 10%), and Chester and Montgomery (7% and 6% respectively).Lehigh experienced a 4-point increase in poverty rates since 2000, while Lancaster, Lebanon, and Montgomery all experienced 2-point increases in their poverty rates since 2000. Chester County experienced a larger increase of 3%.

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.

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

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 3 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 expected to be released annually in December.

People Living in Poverty
United States12%15%14%
Berks County9%14%13%
Berks County Regions
Reading city26%39%35%
Berks County Peers
Chester County5%7%7%
Lancaster County8%10%10%
Lebanon County8%11%10%
Lehigh County9%14%13%
Montgomery County4%6%6%
Schuylkill County10%13%13%

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 People Living in Poverty
United States33,899,81246,663,43344,257,979
Berks County34,20155,34851,733
Berks County Regions
Reading city20,68233,15130,375
Berks County Peers
Chester County22,03233,89534,217
Lancaster County35,55353,17752,452
Lebanon County8,72813,95014,073
Lehigh County28,09547,01644,179
Montgomery County32,21548,00749,866
Schuylkill County13,61217,94617,294

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%.

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 Decreasing
Single-Parent Families Increasing
Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity Decreasing
Disengaged Youth Decreasing
Live Births to Teen Mothers Decreasing
Change in Population by Age and Gender Increasing
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 Decreasing
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 Decreasing
Historically Underperforming Student Performance on Grade 8 Math Decreasing
Student Performance on High School English Decreasing
Student Performance on High School Math Maintaining
High School Cohort Graduation Rate Increasing
Education Levels of Adults, by Race/Ethnicity Increasing
Brain Drain/Gain Increasing
Plans of High School Graduates Decreasing
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
Health Status Not Applicable
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
Students in K-6 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 Decreasing
Average Charitable Giving Maintaining
Contributions as a Percentage of Income Maintaining
Households With Internet Access Not Applicable
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