Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Final Report - Volume One. 6.2 Characteristics of Philadelphia's Children and Families


There are approximately 2,900,000 children under age 18 in the State of Pennsylvania. The majority of children are Caucasian (78 percent) and more than three-quarters are fourteen years old or less (Table 6-1).

Table 6-1
Age and Race Distribution of Children in Pennsylvania
Total number under age 18 in 2000 2,922,221
Age Percent (%)
Under 5 years old 25
5-9 years old 28
10-14 years old 30
15-18 years old 17
White 78
African American 13
Hispanic 5
Other (non-Hispanic) 4
Sources: 2000 U.S. Census data; Kids Count Data Book, published 2000.

Indicators of child health, education, and social and economic welfare in Pennsylvania, compared to the nation, are presented in Table 6-2. Data have been abstracted from the Kids Count Data Book, published by Annie E. Casey Foundation. With respect to most indicators, Pennsylvania's families and children are similar to the national average. Notable exceptions include a lower percent of children without health insurance (15% in the nation compared to 8% in Pennsylvania), and a lower teen birth rate (30% in the nation compared to 22% in Pennsylvania). The Casey Foundation developed a family risk index based on the following indicators: 1) number of children who are not living with two parents, 2) households in which the head of household did not have a high school diploma, 3) family income is below the poverty line, 4) parents did not have steady employment, 5) the family was receiving welfare, and 6) no health insurance for the children. Using the Casey risk calculation, in Pennsylvania 12 percent of the children are considered at risk compared to 14 percent of children nationwide. (61)

Philadelphia has approximately 385,000 children under the age of 18. Similar to the state statistic, 26 percent of children are under 5 years old. Fifty-two percent of the children under age 18 in Philadelphia County are African American, while 32 percent are Caucasian.

Table 6-2
Indicators of Children and Family Health, Education, Social and Economic Welfare in Pennsylvania Compared to the Nation
  Pennsylvania Nation
Percent low birth weight babies (1998) 7.6 7.6
Infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births, 1998) 7.1 7.2
Percent of 2 year olds immunized (1999) 87.0 80.0
Percent of children without health insurance (1998) 8.0 15.0
Percent of children covered by Medicaid or other public-sector health insurance (1996) 21.0 25.0
Child death rate (deaths per 100,000 ages 1-14 in 1998) 22 24
Teen violent death rates (deaths per 100,000 ages 15-19 in 1998) 51 54
Teen birth rate (Births per 1,000 15-17 females in 1998) 22 30
Percent of teens who are high school dropouts (ages 16-19 in 1998) 7.0 9.0
Percent of 4th grade students who scored below basic reading level (1998) N.A. 39.0
Percent of 8th grade students who scored below basic math reading level (1998) N.A. 28.0
Welfare, Social, and Economic:
Median income of families with children (1998) $48,300 $45,600
Percent of children in poverty (1997) 17.0 20.0
Percent of children living with parents who do not have full-time, year-around employment (1998) 24.0 26.0
Percent of children under age 18 in working-poor families (1998) 21.0 23.0
Percent of families with children headed by a single parent (1998) 25.0 27.0
Source: Kids Count Data Book, published by Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1999 & 2000.

Comparing indicators of child and family well-being in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia County (Table 6-3), it appears that children in Philadelphia County are not faring as well as those statewide. Philadelphia County has relatively high rates of low birth weight, births to unmarried women, and adults with less than a high school diploma. Philadelphia has a poverty rate over twice the state rate, has twice the proportion of children below the poverty level, and has a median household income nearly $10,000 less than households statewide.

Table 6-3
Indicators of Children and Family in Philadelphia County Compared to Pennsylvania
  Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Teen birth rate: births per 1,000 teens ages 15-19 (1998) 18.2 22
Percent low birth weight babies (1998) 11.0 7.6
Percent of total births to unmarried women (1998) 62.3 --
Infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births, 1998) 7.1 7.2
Percent of population with less than HS diploma (1990) 35.7 25.3
Persons below poverty (based on 1997 model- based estimate) 21.7 10.9
Percent of children below poverty (based on 1997 model-based estimate) 32.8 16.6
Median household income (based on 1997 model-based estimate) $28,897 $37,267
Sources: Kids Count Data Book (2001); The Right Start: City Trends (2001); 1998 County and City Extra (1998); 2000 U.S. Census.

Poverty is an important problem in the Philadelphia area. Nearly 22 percent of persons in the county, and almost one-third of children in the county, live below the poverty level. Substance abuse is also widely recognized as an established problem in Philadelphia and among child welfare cases, and is a central focus of family preservation efforts in Philadelphia. Of the 25 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in the U.S., Philadelphia ranked 6th in rates of alcohol use, 13th in illicit drug use, and 17th in cocaine use in the years 1991 to 1993. (62) These estimates indicate that from 1991 to 1993, an average of 59.1 percent of those age 12 and older in the Philadelphia MSA had used alcohol in the past month, compared with 49.9 percent for the U.S. as a whole. In terms of illicit drug use, Philadelphia MSA residents were more typical of the U.S. population in general with 5.7 percent having used illicit drugs and 0.6 percent cocaine. Data on drug dependence and treatment for the Philadelphia MSA were also similar to figures for the U.S. as a whole. One percent of the Philadelphia residents over 12 were dependent on illicit drugs over a one-year period; 2.8 percent were dependent on alcohol; 0.8 percent received treatment for drug use, and 0.6 percent received treatment for alcohol use. (63)

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