For the last decade, Philadelphia has been unable to shake its notorious distinction as the poorest big city in the United States. More than a quarter of the city's residents are experiencing poverty, meaning a family of four earns less than $25,100 per year. Forty percent of those are struggling to break out of "deep poverty," with half that income.
These statistics are not new. This has been Philadelphia’s economic reality for so long that the data tend to provoke numbness in place of anguish. But the frightening truth is that these numbers aren’t even the full extent of our problem.
Today, a critical mass of the city’s general-interest, ethnic, and community newsrooms have come together to say: Enough. We’ve been reporting on poverty for years, but the Inquirer and the Daily News, along with 18 other local news organizations, have decided to take more direct, and collective, approach. Today we launch BROKE in Philly, an ambitious year-long initiative that will provide in-depth, nuanced and solutions-oriented reporting on the issues of poverty and the push for economic justice in Philadelphia.
BROKE will take a clear, hard look at what works to help ensure greater economic security for residents of our region, and what doesn’t. We aim to explore poverty’s complex causes and highlight creative approaches that show promise in its alleviation. We will ask questions such as: What’s working in Philly to alleviate poverty and further economic security for all? What has been tried and failed—and what can we learn from that? How are other cities increasing economic equity and what are some lessons for Philadelphia?
Philadelphia could be unique in how we deal with this challenge. Many other large cities have seen targeted displacement and rising costs of living push those with the lowest incomes out to the suburbs. They got rid of their large-scale poverty problem—without fixing it.
Jean Friedman-Rudovsky is the executive director of Resolve. @jeannyfr