Whites continue to leave Philadelphia Suburban counties show strongest growth, Census Bureau reports


PHILADELPHIA -- White flight continues to be the major factor in the drain of Philadelphia's population, while outlying suburban counties show the region's strongest growth, according to recently released census figures.

Fastest growing was Chester County, which saw a 6 percent population increase to a total of 397,313 in 1994. Bucks County (population 567,200) and Gloucester County (241,500) each grew by 5 percent.

From 1990 to 1994, the city lost about 60,000 residents, or 4 percent of its population. As of 1994, the city had 1,524,249 residents. Philadelphia's white population dropped 8 percent, from 896,000 to 825,000.

"The white population continues to move out to the outer perimeter," said William Stull, an economics professor at Temple University. "This is a continuation of what's been going on in all older large cities for a long time."

While the number of white residents declined, the city's minority populations grew. There was a 13 percent increase in the Asian population, from 44,800 to 50,900. The number of residents of Hispanic origin grew 8 percent, from 89,200 to 96,600. The black population in the city grew only 1 percent, from 640,600 to 644,100.

Suburban growth continues

In contrast to Philadelphia's population loss, regional suburban growth continued.

The U.S. Census Bureau annually issues population figures for Philadelphia and its surrounding counties. The breakdown of regions by racial categories is available every 10 years.

The recently released figures estimating population trends in the racial and ethnic makeup of Philadelphia and its suburbs marked the first time census demographers have tried to estimate those categories at the county level for a four-year period, said bureau statistician Larry Sink.

The estimates were derived as new information on state growth rates, federal tax returns, birth and death certificates, and Social Security Administration figures have become available in computerized form, Sink said.

All of Philadelphia's seven suburban counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey remain overwhelmingly white, ranging from Camden County's 78 percent to Bucks County's 95 percent. At the same time, the latest numbers showed continued growth of the black population in the suburbs.

In 1990, there were roughly 303,000 black people living in Philadelphia's suburbs, a number that grew 10 percent to about 334,000 by 1994. The result is a suburban population which is 9.3 percent black. As of 1994, there were 3.36 million suburban dwellers.

The recent increase continues a decades-long trend. From 1980 to 1990, the number of black residents in the suburbs grew 24 percent. The previous decade showed a 28 percent jump.

Small growth in real numbers

While those percentage increases might seem impressive, they represent relatively small growth in real numbers.

For example, in Gloucester County, N.J., there was a 14 percent increase in black people from 1990 to 1994. That represented a change from 20,084 black residents in 1990 to 22,962 in 1994. Other ethnic groups with even less representation in the suburbs showed dramatic percentage increases during the same time period.

The Asian-American population of Gloucester County, for instance, grew 37 percent to 3,963. Bucks and Chester counties each saw a 30 percent increase in the same population group - 11,039 in Bucks and 5,278 in Chester.

Similar increases could be seen among Hispanic residents in the same counties: 27 percent in Gloucester to 5,253, 24 percent to 11,002 in Bucks and 23 percent in Chester County to 10,536.

In between Philadelphia's urban borders and the booming outer ring of suburban communities, the older, inner-ring suburbs showed population changes ranging from a zero increase in Delaware County's about half-million residents to Montgomery County's modest 3 percent increase, from 678,100 to 700,300. In New Jersey, Burlington County measured 1 percent growth, from 395,000 to 398,800 residents.

Pub Date: 9/22/96

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