Posted March 21, 2013

Sociologists lend expertise for study and story on city’s high rate of deep poverty

In a front-page story published March 20, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Philadelphia has the highest rate (12.9 percent) of deep poverty — people with incomes below half of the poverty line — of any of the nation's 10 most populous cities.

Those numbers came from an examination of 2009-11 data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey conducted by the Inquirer and David Elesh, associate professor of sociology at Temple and co-director of Temple's Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project

Elesh's analysis of the data showed that of the 4,300,000 people living in the area around Philadelphia, there are nearly 160,000 in deep poverty — a rate of 3.6 percent — in Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, Delaware, Salem, Gloucester, Burlington and Camden Counties as well as New Castle County, Del., and Cecil County, Md.

Also quoted in the article was Judith Levine, assistant professor of sociology at Temple. She observed that many who live just below the poverty line often move out of poverty, but those in deep poverty are in such a profoundly disadvantaged state that they're more likely to stay mired in it. "Poverty becomes a long-term experience, and it's very different, especially for children," she said.

Levine's forthcoming book, Ain't No Trust: How Bosses, Boyfriends and Bureaucrats fail Low-Income Mothers and Why it Matters, explores how issues of trust and distrust impact low-income women in the U.S. and presents evidence from in-depth interviews about the efficacy of our welfare system.