McGillin’s owner Chris Mullins remembers more excitement when Philadelphia prepared to host the 2000 Republican National Convention than this year’s Democratic National Convention. This isn’t meant to be a slight. Just an observation and to some extent a compliment.
“Philadelphia,” Mullins said, “was a completely different city.”
Back then, Philly wasn’t quite used to having nice things. Hell, just a few years earlier, the groundbreaking of the Hard Rock Cafe on Market Street counted as big news. And it was just a few months before 2000 that a Houlihan’s restaurant was still in Rittenhouse Square.
Now, Philadelphia is a much more cosmopolitan city. Our restaurants are nationally-acclaimed, we’re the United States’ first world heritage city (though nobody’s exactly sure what that means), and we hosted the pope last year. Philly still has its fair share of problems, of course, from failing public schools to a population that is still the poorest of any of America’s 10 largest cities, but the city is different and in many ways better.
As Philly prepares to host the DNC next week, here’s a look back at where the city was in 2000 compared to where it is now, for better and worse.
A quick note: For statistics about the present, the most recent data is included, meaning some of the information comes from 2014 or 2015 rather than this year. Most data comes from the Census, the Center City District, Philadelphia Police and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
In 2000, Philadelphia was recognized as one of the oldest big cities in the country. It was the rare big city that didn’t have people in their late 20s and early 30s as its largest age group. In the decade going into 2000, Philly had experienced a 19 percent population loss of people ages 25-to-34. Things were not looking good.
As has been much publicized the last few years, Philadelphia is growing, in large part because of immigrants. Here’s how it all breaks down from 2000 to 2016.
- 2000: 1,517,550
- Now: 1,567,442
Share of population ages 20-to-34
- 2000: 22.5%
- Now: 26.3%
- 2000: 34.2
- Now: 33.8
Share of foreign-born population
- 2000: 9%
- Now: 13%
Entertainment/Center City Growth
Mullins was dead-on when talking about how Center City didn’t feel as vibrant 16 years ago as it does now. Back in 2000, the population of “core” Center City, the area stretching from river-to-river and from Vine to Pine streets, was not nearly as high as it is now, nor was the number of restaurants and other entertainment options.
“Core” Center City population
“Greater” Center City population (river to river, Girard to Tasker)
Leisure and hospitality establishments
Center City outdoor dining options
No discussion of Philadelphia is complete without delving into our poverty problem. Center City may be growing and new kinds of entertainment may be arriving weekly, but hundreds of thousands of people suffer every day in Philadelphia. Things have not been getting better in this category since 2000. Because of the recession and the country’s general rise in income inequality, they’ve been getting worse.
Median Household Income
- 2000: $42,268 (adjusted for inflation)
- Now: $39,043
- 2000: 22.9%
- Now: 26%
Violent crime and homicide rates have been going down for years. We also have fewer people patrolling the streets and judging by the department’s recruiting problems, the number isn’t heading up anytime soon.
Number of police
- 2000: 7,024
- Now: 6,200
Philadelphia remains one of the least-educated big cities in the US, with a small proportion of residents holding bachelor’s degrees and a high dropout rate in high school. The most recent data, even concerning the perpetually-troubled Philadelphia School District high schools, shows the city has made strides since 2000.
Four-year high school graduation rates
Share of population with a bachelor’s degree or higher
- 2000: 17.9%
- Now: 24.5%
Number of residents enrolled in universities
- 2000: 115,671
- Now: 147,779