DNC 2016

The wild differences in Philly between the 2000 RNC and next week’s DNC

In 2000, we had an aging population and a Houlihan’s in Rittenhouse Square. Now we have a younger population and thousands more people living in Center City.

Philly Philadelphia skyline
Flickr via Dennis Yang

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.


Young Involved Philly held a phone bank to try to increase young voter turnout in 2014.

Young Involved Philly held a phone bank to try to increase young voter turnout in 2014.

Anna Orso/Billy Penn

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%

Median age

  • 2000: 34.2
  • Now: 33.8

Share of foreign-born population

  • 2000: 9%
  • Now: 13%

Entertainment/Center City Growth

Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

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



Photographer: Tomas Castelazo

Photographer: Tomas Castelazo

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

Poverty rate

  • 2000: 22.9%
  • Now: 26%

Unemployment rate

Criminal Justice

Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Richard Ross stand at a press conference in 2016.

Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Richard Ross announce the receipt of the MacArthur grant.

@PhiladelphiaGov on Twitter

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.

Annual homicides

Number of police

  • 2000: 7,024
  • Now: 6,200


The cover photo Temple University uses for its Facebook page includes the Philadelphia skyline — visual messaging President Neil Theobald says is important.

The cover photo Temple University uses for its Facebook page includes the Philadelphia skyline — visual messaging President Neil Theobald says is important.

Betsy Manning / Temple University

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 

Want some more? Explore other DNC 2016 stories.

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