Financial Self-Sufficiency
Working Poor

Working Poor

What does this measure?

The number of employed individuals whose incomes fall below the poverty line. 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?

People who are working, but earning at or below the poverty line face numerous obstacles that may make it more difficult for them to improve their status. Like others in poverty, they may find it difficult to meet basic needs for food or shelter, as well as facing challenges in paying for services they may need to stay employed, such as transportation or child care.

How is our county performing?

In 2013-17, 3% of people employed in Berks County had incomes below the poverty line. This percentage was similar to Pennsylvania, but lower than the nation's 4%. Within the county, 7% of workers in the Central region could be considered poor in 2013-17, compared to 2% in the Northeast, West and the South as well as 1% in the Southeast. In the City of Reading, 9% of employees were working poor, unchanged since 2008-12.

Among surrounding counties, the percentage of working poor was similar to Berks in Chester, Lancaster, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties. The percentage was lower in Montgomery (2%) and higher in Lehigh (4%).

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.

Figures are in constant 2017 dollars. 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 released annually in December.

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

Working Poor
United States4%4%
Berks County3%3%
Berks County Regions
Reading city9%9%
Berks County Peers
Chester County2%3%
Lancaster County3%3%
Lebanon County3%3%
Lehigh County3%4%
Montgomery County2%2%
Schuylkill County3%3%

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 Working Poor
United States9,759,83510,385,868
Berks County10,93911,021
Berks County Regions
Reading city5,4225,808
Berks County Peers
Chester County8,10210,270
Lancaster County12,19613,703
Lebanon County2,8753,314
Lehigh County7,95110,041
Montgomery County11,44812,958
Schuylkill County3,2133,069

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 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