A census report, quietly released in May, revealed some interesting statistics about student populations and urban poverty rates. The report found that, overall, Philadelphia's official poverty rate was 1.4 percent higher than it would otherwise have been due to the inclusion of student residents. Statewide, the impact is slightly less: the poverty rate goes up 0.9 percent with the inclusion of these students. In Pennsylvania, 58.1 of college students not living with relatives are living below the poverty line.
As any good statistician, GIS analyst, or general wonk knows, students wreak havoc on data about populations. While students can have homes and jobs, just like real humans, they are a population that typically records little to no income and frequently changes residence. The results are instances of, at least on paper, extreme poverty and unemployment on and around college campuses, because the family assets that buoy many college students are difficult to quantify.
While census estimates use family income for individuals living in dorms and university-related housing, the same is not true for off-campus student populations living in private rental units, which can be numerous and extremely difficult to quantify. With roughly 124,000 students enrolled in the city's public and private universities (and 38,000 more enrolled in community college) — but only 25,000 recognized as living in college-affiliated housing — it's a significant population: around 40,000 students.
The May study strips out this group, calculating an overall poverty rate that excludes resident students that do not live with relatives. Of cities with more than one million residents, only San Diego saw a larger distortion in its poverty rate due to its student population.
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