An Update on Income Inequality in Philadelphia: Latest Data from 2021

Date:

Using the Latest Census Bureau Estimates to Analyze Earnings Gaps Across Ethnic, Racial and Gender Groups

Key Points:

  • In 2021, Philadelphia’s median household income was $52,650.
  • Median household incomes for Black and Latino/Hispanic households were significantly below the city’s overall median by $13,297 and $13,837, respectively.
  • Non-Hispanic White households reported a median household income of $74,279, which was $21,630 above the city’s median, approximately $18,400 above Asian households’ median, almost $35,000 above Black households’ median, and roughly $35,500 above Latino/Hispanic households’ median.
  • Only 10% of majority non-Hispanic White neighborhoods had a median household income below the city’s median in 2021, while 76% of majority non-Hispanic Black neighborhoods and all but one of the 25 Latino/Hispanic majority neighborhoods had a median household income below the city’s median.
  • The only majority Asian neighborhood in Philadelphia had a median household income $38,418 above the city’s median.
  • Philadelphia neighborhoods without a distinct racial or ethnic majority were more evenly divided, with 59% having a median household income below the city’s median and 41% having a median household income above the city’s median.

In 2021, full-time, year-round non-Hispanic White female workers in Philadelphia earned $0.88 for every non-Hispanic White male dollar earned, indicating an increase of one cent since 2020.

Both Asian females and males in Philadelphia achieved earnings equality with white males in 2021, earning $0.75 for every white male dollar earned, making them the only racial or ethnic group in the city to do so.

Full-time, year-round, salaried Black females earned $0.59 for every white male dollar earned in Philadelphia in 2021, which was $0.02 less than Black males.

Full-time, year-round, salaried Latina/Hispanic females in Philadelphia saw the lowest earnings compared to white males, earning only $0.55.

Latino/Hispanic males in Philadelphia earned $0.05 more than Latina/Hispanic females in 2021, but $0.40 less than non-Hispanic White males.

Philadelphia’s wage inequality patterns in 2021 were similar to Boston and New York City, where white male and female median earnings were typically followed by Asian earnings, then Black earnings, and finally Latino/Hispanic earnings.

Non-Hispanic White male median earnings in Philadelphia, at $69,473, were more than $20,000 lower than non-Hispanic White male median earnings in New York City and Boston.

However, patterns of wage inequality differed in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., where median earnings among Asian residents either outpaced or were similar to some non-Hispanic White median earnings, and Latino/Hispanic median earnings surpassed Black median earnings.

In 2021, Pittsburgh had the highest proportional median earnings for Black workers out of six peer Northeast U.S. cities. On the other hand, Philadelphia’s wage inequality is trending like Boston and New York City, which are known for their very high levels of income inequality. 

Income inequality and poverty disproportionately track along lines of race, ethnicity, and gender, stemming from various structural biases and prejudiced policies, such as hiring discrimination, workplace norms, financial redlining, inequitable access to higher education, housing segregation, unequal school funding, the digital divide, and over-policing. 

The median household income of Black and Latino/Hispanic households in Philadelphia reported significantly lower earnings than the city’s overall median. Non-Hispanic White and Asian households, however, earned more. Disaggregating income inequality across Philadelphia’s neighborhoods demonstrated that the majority of predominantly non-Hispanic White neighborhoods reported median household incomes above the city’s overall median, while neighborhoods with more communities of color saw median household incomes below the city’s median. 

Income inequality also falls along lines of gender, where female workers and—in particular—female workers of color earn proportionally less than their male counterparts.

The patterns of wage inequality in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York City in 2021 were similar, with white males and females having the highest median earnings followed by Asians, Blacks, and then Latino/Hispanics. However, Philadelphia’s median earnings were significantly lower than the other two cities. In contrast, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. had different patterns of wage inequality, with Asian residents having higher median earnings than some non-Hispanic Whites, and Latino/Hispanics having higher earnings than Blacks in some cases. 

Pittsburgh was an outlier, with the lowest median earnings among non-Hispanic White males, but with better proportional earnings for full-time, year-round salaried Black workers than any of the other peer Northeast U.S. cities. These trends highlight the persistent inequalities across lines of race, ethnicity, and gender that need to be addressed. 

The Economy League focuses on strategies and programming to close these gaps, such as growing and maintaining Philadelphia’s small and diverse business ecosystem and centering bottom-up, community-driven solutions. The League’s analysis is based on publicly available data and aims to inform regional leaders about these important issues.

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