Is Philadelphia growing?

On April 17, we posed this question at Roadmap for Growth’s Defining Growth for Philadelphia issue forum, where we also released a report that outlined patterns of growth for our city. Benchmarking Philadelphia against nine peer cities, we looked at the same data at the neighborhood level to see the geographies where our community is making progress and falling behind.

Why we’re asking

Over the past six years, the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth initiative has been engaging and uniting Chamber members with a broad swath of civic and neighborhood organizations to lift and improve Philadelphia’s economic and civic life. Building on this work, the Chamber has launched a new project to leverage the ideas and conversations that started in Roadmap into proactive policies that nurture inclusive growth.

“All businesses start as small businesses, and that’s why we’re fighting to make sure City Hall focuses on a pro-growth, jobs agenda that protects neighborhoods and small business owners.” – Keith Baldwin, President, Spike’s Trophies & Awards located in Northeast Philadelphia

Keith Baldwin is just one representative among our Chamber member companies who is taking a stand for inclusive prosperity through the Chamber’s new PHL Neighborhood Growth Project (NGP).

NGP was created to keep the forward march of economic growth and progress in our city while ensuring that every one of our neighborhood residents has the opportunity to bask in its light. This is within our grasp; it can be resourced with smart policy reforms and the wise use of city budget surpluses.

In order to better understand how NGP can be of service within Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, we need to first understand where the city is, and isn’t, already experiencing growth. The findings excerpted below from our Defining Growth for Philadelphia study can help us proactively target policies in areas that will benefit greatly from the NGP’s Inclusive Growth Agenda.

The Findings


Philadelphia’s population is increasing — but at a lower rate than most of our peers. The city has experienced a recent surge in foreign-born population growth — a group that is more likely to be entrepreneurs than those born in the U.S.

Population Growth
2013 – 2017

City% Growth
Washington, D.C.8.6%
New York3.5%
Los Angeles3.2%

Foreign-Born Population Growth
2013 – 2017

City% Growth
Washington, D.C.10.8%
New York4.0%
Los Angeles0.0%


Similar to population, Philadelphia’s median household income is increasing — but that growth is not keeping pace with peer cities. Philadelphia has also made the least progress among its peer group in reducing the share of population in poverty, which remains the highest in the country among large cities at 25.8% in 2017.

Median Household Income Growth
2013 – 2017 (inflation-adjusted)

City% Growth
Washington, D.C.12.1%
New York5.1%
Los Angeles4.6%

Reduction of Share of Population in Poverty
2013 – 2017

City% Growth
Los Angeles-7.3%
Washington, D.C.-6.5%
New York-3.4%


Philadelphia’s employment rate has increased by about 5% in the number of residents 16 and older, keeping pace with peer cities. The unemployment rate among residents declined from 8.1% in 2014 to an average of 5.5% in 2018 but remains above the national average.

Growth in Share of Population Employed (2013 – 2017)

Population Employed (2017)


While its level of housing construction has increased in recent years, Philadelphia issued fewer housing permits (both in total and per capita) than any of its peer cities.

2017 Housing Unit Permits (per 1,000 residents)

Educational Attainment

Philadelphia has seen significant growth in the number of residents 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher, consistent with many of its peer cities.

Growth in Residents with Bachelor's Degree or Higher (2013 – 2017)

Changing the Narrative

Based on our findings, Philadelphia still has some work to do. Which is why we’re bringing Philadelphia’s business community, civic leaders, neighborhood organizations, and residents together with the Mayor and City Council in an all‑hands-on-deck effort to fight for shared prosperity in every corner of the city through the PHL Neighborhood Growth Project.

You can help build support for our inclusive, pro-growth agenda in City Hall:

There are many other ways to get in involved in our city’s future through our new PHL Neighborhood Growth Project. Contact us at to ask how you can make a difference.