Fleeing Philly

Roughly 60,000 people leave Philadelphia every year, significantly more than those who move in from other towns or cities according to a Pew Charitable Trusts survey.[1] People are fleeing the city at alarming rates.

The most popular reason people give for leaving the city of brotherly love is a lack of job opportunities, especially for those with at least a four-year degree.  

Taxes matter too. Nearly half of respondents (44%) in the Pew survey listed taxation as a reason for leaving Philadelphia. The other high response categories like crime and safety and job opportunities are closely linked to tax rates, and how the city spends tax revenue.

Of those with school aged children, the most common reason for escape is that of the failing Philadelphia school system. Public schools in Philadelphia are unaccountable and perform well below educational standards. A recent Inquirer investigation found Philadelphia students aren’t attending class, and their test scores are well below proficiency. PSSA (state standardized test) results show, 88% of eight graders cannot do math at grade level. And 66% cannot read at grade level.

Parents are forced to place their hopes in a lottery system for a chance to attend a charter school or receive a tax credit scholarship. Both options are fraught with long waiting lists. The Inquirer reports 30,000 on charter waiting lists in Philadelphia alone, while there are nearly 50,000 denied tax credit scholarship applications.

Despite the demand for these education alternatives. Governor Wolf and Mayor Kenney continue to advocate for policies that cap charter enrollment and tax credit scholarships.

From Rocky to the 2017 World Champion Eagles team, Philadelphia embraces the role of the underdog, but an underdog can’t win if they can’t get in the game. For too many entrepreneurs, the game is so rigged with endless taxes and regulation that they can’t even play. Consider the soda tax that closed down stores like ShopRite. For Philly to reclaim jobs and improve the quality of education massive tax reform is needed.

No one in the survey suggested the solution to Philly’s problems is more government spending or regulation. Afterall, Philadelphians are taxed from cradle to grave enduring 44 separate taxes.

Bad government policies are, in effect, evicting thousands of Philadelphians every year. It’s time to scale back local government burdens, unleash successful public charter schools and let the city of underdogs shine.


[1] Pew Charitable Trusts, “Who’s Leaving Philadelphia and Why,” September, 18 2019, https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2019/09/whos-leaving-philadelphia-and-why