Lancaster City income plummeted 15% BEFORE the crash

Lancaster city, Pennsylvania, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau released new data today as part of its American Community Survey program, which tracks information for certain areas between 10-year censuses. This is the first time Lancaster city, with a relatively small population (55,029 of us) was included in such an extensive Census Bureau project in the in-between years. (New York City, for instance, is always included in such studies. This time around it revealed that the number of whites in Harlem has tripled.)

The data reveals some shocking trends for our city. I compared the newly-released data against data from the 2000 census (which reflected reality as of 1999). To do this, I converted 1999 dollars into 2007 dollars (by multiplying by 1.24438087, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

We all know that the current economic recession is hurting everyone. What we didn’t realize was how badly we here in Lancaster city were getting hit already.

Household & Per Capita Income

Lancaster city – As of 2007, median household income was $31,599. In 1999 it was $37,045 (adjusted to 2007 dollars). That means household income dropped 15% between 1999 and 2007. In that same time, per capita income dropped 9%: in 2007, per capita income was $15,813. In 1999, it was $17,365.

Lancaster County – As of 2007, median household income was $63,499. In 1999 it was $56,628. When you tack on the suburbs, median household income grew 12% within the county. But, county-wide, per capita income dipped by 0.6%:  in 2007, per capita income was $25,214. In 1999, it was $25,382.

Question: What do you make of the fact that in the county, median household income significantly grew, while per capita income slightly declined?

Lancaster city is not alone in hearing bad news: Every metro area in Northeast Ohio (in some ways a peer region) saw such a decline. In Wooster, median household income was down 20%.

Home Values

Lancaster cityCity homes declined 20% in value. The median home value in 2007 was $71,300. In 1999, it was $88,724 (in 2007 dollars).

Lancaster County – County homes increased 14% in value. The median home value in 2007 was $169,500. In 1999 it was $148,454.

This disparity in property value trending obviously has massive tax implications. Consider also the difference in aging infrastructure: 63.1% of city homes were built prior to World War II. In the county homes that old account for only 24.3% of the market. In the city, 3.6% of homes were built in the past 17 years. In the county, that number is 23.3%.

Households with Income over $100,000

Lancaster city – In 2007, there were 1,241 households earning $100k or more, representing 5.9% of city households. In 1999, there were 663 measured using 1999 dollars), about 3.1% of households.

Lancaster County – In 2007, there were 30,711 households with income $100k or more, representing 16.7% of county households. In 1999 there were 16,799 (measured using 1999 dollars), about 9.8% of households.

Below the Poverty Line

Even before the economic recession, poverty levels were increasing in both the city and the county.

Lancaster cityAs of 2007, 25.4% of individuals in the city were living below the poverty line, up from 21.2% in 1999. Fully 65% of single-mother households (no husband present) with children 5 years old or younger were living below the poverty line, up from 54.9% in 1999.

Lancaster County – As of 2007, 9.1% of individuals in the county were living below the poverty line, up from 7.8% in 1999. Among single-mother households (no husband present), with children 5 years old or younger, 52.5% were living below the poverty line in 2007, up from 43.7% in 1999.

Top Industries

Lancaster city:
In 1999, the top 3 industries (in terms of number of people employed) were:

  1. Manufacturing (23.7%)
  2. Educational, health and social services (19.9%)
  3. Retail trade (13.2%)

…In 2007, the top 3 industries were:

  1. Educational, health and social services (21.1%)
  2. Manufacturing (17.3%)
  3. Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (12.7%)

Lancaster County:
In 1999, the top 3 industries were:

  1. Manufacturing (22.5%)
  2. Educational, health and social services (18.2%)
  3. Retail trade (13.0%)

…In 2007, the top 3 industries were:

  1. Educational services, and health care and social assistance (20.2%)
  2. Manufacturing (18.7%)
  3. Retail trade (12.0%)

It’s great to see the city’s #3 industry as of 2007.


Because I am smug enough to highlight these stats, I will. As of 2007, 11% (2,456) of us city dwellers were walking to work. That was only true of 3.5% of the county population. Another 5.2% of city dwellers were taking public transit, as opposed to 1.3% county-wide.

What’s your response to this data? Lancaster city is more vulnerable to the effects of the recession than we previously realized. Is there any way the 2010 census data can possibly look even a little bit better?

Democrats Gaining in Lancaster County Republican Territory

Three (really rustic) graphics:

Together, they spell trouble for Republicans here in Lancaster County, PA, which has for decades been a dependable stronghold for the GOP. The graphics represent, in order, the outcome of the 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections.

  • Dark red indicates the Republican received better than 60% of the vote.
  • Light red indicates the Republican won, but his challenger received more than 40% of the vote.
  • Dark blue indicates the Democrat received better than 60% of the vote.
  • Light blue indicates the Democrat won, but his challenger received more than 40% of the vote.

While McCain/Palin still won Lancaster County last week by a comfortable 55/43 split (Ralph Nader got half a percent; Ron Paul got two-tenths of a percent as a write-in), the numbers indicate a changing electorate within our county. I was actually astonished to compare for myself the decisive break from voting patterns in the 2000 and 2004 elections. (Forgive the poor graphics quality; I did these myself.)

Here are a few ways of breaking down the numbers.

City vs. County

Lancaster City landslided for Obama, 76% to McCain’s 23%. The city represented 21,975 votes, or 10% of county voters. Compare this to much slimmer margins in 2004, where Kerry beat Bush 62 to 38, and 2008, where Gore beat Bush 57 to 39.

Once you subtract the city’s votes, Lancaster County favored McCain, less overwhelmingly, 59 to 40. Non-city residents cast 202,816 votes, making up the other 90% of voters. A margin of 19 points is gigantic, but a shocking change from 2004, when Bush carried 69 to Kerry’s 31, and 2000, when Bush also received 69% of the vote and Gore eked out 29.

Urban vs. Suburban/Exurban/Rural

That breakdown, however, ignores the important fact that there are urban dwellers living in other municipalities beside Lancaster City. Perhaps it is more fair to compare all the county’s “urban” voters against the rest. I ran the numbers comparing city and borough precincts against township precincts (including the urbanized Lancaster Township with the boroughs).

In urbania county-wide, Obama beat McCain 56–43, with 73,366 voters weighing in (33% of voters). In 2000 and 2004, Bush carried the county’s urban areas 56-43 and 57-40, respectively.

Away from urban districts, McCain beat Obama 61-37, with 151,425 voters. Again, this looks decisive until compared with Bush’s victories in 2004 and 200: 70-30 and 70-28.

Stack the Deck

What if we stack the deck? Just for fun, I picked out out all the municipalities in Lancaster County that went for Obama, and pitted them against the rest of the county. Here’s how it looks:

Select Municipalities: Obama 68, McCain 31.  Eighteen percent of the Lancaster County electorate, or 40,319 voters, currently live in areas where a majority of their neighbors currently lean Democratic. In 2004, those same municipalities on the whole went for Kerry by 61-38, and for Gore by just 57-39.

The Rest of Municipalities: McCain 61, Obama 38. Even in the most Republican areas of the county, Democratic voters should have no trouble finding many neighbors who share their political viewpoint. In these municipalities, Bush carried 2004 by 69-30, and 2000 by 69-28.

Perhaps most interesting is the list of municipalities who voted for Obama:

  • Columbia Borough
  • Christiana Borough (by a single vote)
  • Mountville
  • Marietta
  • Millersville
  • Lancaster City
  • Lancaster Township

Columbia borough voted Democratic in 2000 but not in 2004. Lancaster City, Lancaster Township, and part of Millersville borough voted Democratic in both 2000 and 2004. Christiana and Mountville’s votes came out of the blue; Marietta has for some time been on the Democrats’ wishlist as a municipality to pick up.

If you’d like to look at the raw data for yourself, the County has a list of polling locations, which you can use to decipher the election results for the past eight years.

Population Density in PA: The World May Be Flat, But Our State Ain’t

The state data center released a new map today showing how jam-packed we are. Or, in some cases, how far in the boondocks:

Population Density as of July 2007

Observation #1: The world may be flat, but Pennsylvania isn’t. The areas where population density is low are the areas where there are mountains:


Observation #2: The “buffer zone” of eastern Lancaster County remains impressively resilient. Lancaster is not about to be morphed into another Philly suburb any time soon. Given our rate of farmland preservation, it’s unlikely to happen ever.

Population density in Southeast Pennsylvania

Observation #3: A lot of people live “halfway between.” The notion of a Southcentral PA is not a media-market fiction. Lancaster is clearly connected by dense populations to Reading, Hershey, Harrisburg and York. Thousands of people can easily consider themselves a part of two or more of those urban centers. Columbia borough, for instance, is practically as much York as it is Lancaster. Elizabethtown is as much Harrisburg as it is Hershey as it is Lancaster.

Observation #4: While York County is becoming Marylandized, Lancaster County is not. Look at the pockets of dense population in southern York County–Shrewsbury, Loganville, New Freedom. Credit them to new housing developments built to meet the demand of “Baltimorons.” In Lancaster, there is no density to speak of south of Quarryville. No doubt this will intensify the growing cultural contrasts between the two counties.

I’m viewing these as an amateur, not an expert. I’m sure I’ve missed some interesting stuff. What do you see that I don’t?

Also, I am holding off on considering what these observations, if accurate, really mean. How will our lives and communities be changed by the patterns we can observe here?

PA is Old and Sedentary – Or Tried and True?

New data from the 2007 American Community Survey  was released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The good folks of the Pennsylvania State Data Center picked out the goodies and wrote up a research brief [pdf].

The interesting tidbits:

  1. Pennsylvania ranks 4th in the nation in the proportion of its households with at least one member aged 65 or over (27% of all households)
  2. We also rank 4th in the nation in the proportion of its native-born residents who were born in the state (79%).
By Flickr user Toni To, under a Creative Commons license.

On this second point, I called the Data Center for clarification. They helpfully explained that “native-born residents” refers to U.S.-born residents. So, among the current residents of Pennsylvania who are natural-born citizens (born anywhere in the United States or its territories), 79% were born in this state (as opposed to, say, in Arizona, Maryland, Puerto Rico, or a military base abroad).

(I’m concerned that I’m setting an ageist tone to this blog—which is not my intention. )

What is your take on the meaning of these new statistics?