Philadelphia seeing rise in younger population


Despite high crime and unemployment rates, a Pew study shows that young people are still drawn to the city




While crime, poverty and unemployment still plague Philadelphia, the city is nevertheless becoming increasingly attractive to young adults, according to the 2012 State of the City Report.

The study, conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative, shows a rising trend in the city’s young adult population. In the past decade, the number of residents between the ages of 20 and 34 has risen by more than 50,000.

However, the number of homicides increased for the second consecutive year. Although violent crime fell overall in the past year, Philadelphia had the highest homicide rate in 2011 out of the nation’s 10 most populous cities, according to data collected from each city’s police departments.

The study also shows that job creation has slowed from the year before, though unemployment had decreased in 2011. Overall employment is still lower than it was in 2008 before the economic crisis hit.

In addition, the percentage of individuals older than 16 not in the labor force is 42.1 percent — one of the highest of any major city in the U.S.

The percentage of Philadelphians classified as poor increased from last year and makes Philadelphia one of the poorest big cities in the nation, according to the study.

Despite this, Philadelphia’s urban location still draws in young people.

Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative Project Director Larry Eichel believes the rise is due to Philadelphia being a “more attractive place for young adults than it has been in the past in terms of things to do and a sense of vibrancy.”

Urban Studies professor Eugenie Birch sees the trend as a result of young people desiring an urban location filled with restaurants, music and sports. They also have the added convenience of not needing a car.

“They enjoy the spontaneity, density — having lots of friends nearby — and general excitement and variety that city living brings. In addition, cities have improved; they are cleaner, have better public or open spaces … and more housing choices,” she said. “In comparison to New York and other large cities, Philadelphia is affordable and vibrant.”

Eichel sees the increase in young adults to be a benefit to the city. “Young adults bring energy, ideas and creativity. And these are people who, as time goes on, will have increased incomes and will form families.”

Urban Studies professor John Keene also sees the increase in youth as a positive trend.

“These are people who will be more active economically, seek entertainment, go to restaurants, and so forth,” he said.

“It adds to the economic growth of the city,” Birch said.

Eichel said the challenge will be keeping this demographic in the city as they grow older and as their children reach school age. “If young adults don’t find jobs and career opportunities here, they won’t stay,” he said.

The report is based on data from organizations including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Philadelphia Police Department and the School District of Philadelphia.

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