Pennsylvania possesses a wealth of history, a varied culture, and picturesque scenery. Nonetheless, not every resident experiences an equivalent standard of living. Poverty is a significant concern impacting numerous communities throughout the state, particularly in certain urban regions.
As per a recent survey from the financial news website 24/7 Wall St., Johnstown stands as the poorest city in Pennsylvania with a population of fewer than 25,000 inhabitants.
The survey assessed the least affluent cities in each state using data on median household income and poverty rates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2019.
Johnstown, a city with a population of 19,569 in Cambria County, had a median household income of just $25,897. This was the lowest among all cities in Pennsylvania and significantly below the state’s median of $63,463.
Johnstown’s poverty rate was also strikingly high, at 38.4%. This was the fourth highest among all cities in Pennsylvania and more than double the state’s average of 12.5%.
Johnstown used to be a prosperous industrial hub, specializing in steel, coal, and iron production. It gained recognition for its resilience, having weathered three devastating floods in 1889, 1936, and 1977.
However, the decline of the manufacturing sector in the latter half of the 20th century severely impacted Johnstown. Numerous factories shut down, leading to a loss of jobs.
The population of Johnstown also experienced a sharp decline, dropping from over 60,000 in 1950 to less than 20,000 today. The city has faced challenges in bouncing back from this economic downturn and in diversifying its economy.
Johnstown is confronted with numerous difficulties due to its poverty. A report from the United Way of Pennsylvania reveals that 67% of households in Johnstown either live in poverty or have difficulty affording fundamental necessities like housing, food, healthcare, and transportation.
The report also highlights Johnstown’s lower levels of educational achievement, poorer health outcomes, and fewer job prospects when compared to other cities in Pennsylvania. Moreover, Johnstown grapples with elevated rates of crime, drug misuse, and urban decay.
Even with its challenges, Johnstown remains committed to shaping a brighter future. The city has been actively pursuing initiatives to breathe new life into its downtown, attract fresh businesses and investors, and upgrade its infrastructure and services.
Examples of these endeavors include the Vision 2025 plan, a comprehensive effort involving community engagement and cooperation to boost both the economy and quality of life in Johnstown.
The Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership is another initiative, dedicated to promoting tourism and cultural events within the city. Additionally, the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority is overseeing projects like demolishing rundown buildings, restoring historic landmarks, and establishing green spaces.
In Johnstown, there’s a strong community of organizations and individuals devoted to making a positive impact and aiding those in need.
For instance, the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies offers grants and scholarships to support a range of causes and programs in Johnstown and its surrounding areas. The Greater Johnstown Community YMCA provides health and wellness programs, youth development activities, and social services for residents of all ages. Meanwhile, Lift Johnstown is a network of volunteers dedicated to projects such as neighborhood beautification, student mentoring, and organizing food drives.
Johnstown has encountered numerous difficulties and trials throughout its history. Nevertheless, it has also demonstrated incredible resilience and determination.
Though it may be ranked as the least affluent city in Pennsylvania in a particular survey, Johnstown possesses a wealth of assets and potential avenues to address its economic challenges and enhance its circumstances. With the collective efforts of its residents, leaders, collaborators, and advocates, Johnstown can aspire to a more promising future.