Census: Philadelphia’s young people are smarter, poorer today

Keeping Mills

Above, volunteers for Young Involved Philly call voters before the November election.

Before Philadelphia had the millennials helping drive its current resurgence, it had young Baby Boomers and young Generation X-ers. They voted for Reagan a couple of times, walked around downtown with Discmans and lived in Philadelphia County when they were young just like we do now. How do millennials stack up?

Data released earlier this month in the U.S. Census explorer for young adults lets us find out (it’s similar to the data that showed us most of metro Philadelphia’s millennials are on the market but many live with their parents). These numbers — for Philadelphia County — show millennials here have it tougher than young people from previous generations. Though they’re better-educated, their salaries are lower and they’re more likely to be unemployed than Gen X-ers. Another possible bad sign: This supposed resurgence of young people in the city is quite similar in terms of size to those from the 80s and 90s that declined in the 2000s.

Here are five graphs explaining young people in Philadelphia now compared to the past.

  • 1980: 28.5%
  • 1990: 28.9%
  • 2000: 25.7%
  • 2009-13: 29.5%
  • Comment: The question, as always, comes down to whether Philadelphia can keep this batch of young people in the city.

  • 1980: 15.1%
  • 1990: 18%
  • 2000: 20.2%
  • 2009-13: 27%
  • Comment: The increase in young Philadelphians with college degrees has almost doubled the national rate. From 1980 to present in the U.S., the increase has been 15.7% to 22.3%.

  • 1980: 57.7%
  • 1990: 62.6%
  • 2000: 59.4%
  • 2009-2013: 56.6%
  • Comment: Here’s where the bad news starts. Being more educated as a group isn’t making millennials more employable. Philadelphia is still feeling the effects of the recession and far worse than the rest of the nation and state. Pennsylvania’s and the United States’ employment rates for young people are both around 65 percent. This lag behind the state and the nation is nothing new, though. In the previous decades, the employment rate for young people in Philadelphia was also about 10 percent lower.

  • 1980: $35,307
  • 1990: $37,440
  • 2000: $37,993
  • 2009-13: $36,815
  • Comment: Though the median salary is down in Philadelphia for young people, it could be a lot worse. Nationally in 2000, the median was about the same as Philadelphia’s ($37,355). It’s now $33,833. Our city has fewer jobs than elsewhere, but those jobs pay well.

  • 1980: 53.1%
  • 1990: 53.2%
  • 2000: 57.5%
  • 2009-13: 53.9%
  • Comment: Nobody is sure if millennials will continue to seek alternate forms of transportation (their shunning of cars might be a byproduct of the recent recession). As automobile transportation falls in Philadelphia, cycling continues to rise. The number of bike commuters — of any age — increased by 33 percent in Center City the last two years.


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