The Lehigh Valley is a fast-growing region in eastern Pennsylvania that covers 726 square miles in Lehigh and Northampton counties. The two-county area consists of the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, 27 boroughs and 32 townships. More than 660,000 people call the region home, but that number is growing by roughly one percent per year. Nestled between some of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, the Lehigh Valley features a rich variety of landscapes, including the Blue Mountain to the north, the Delaware River to the east and the South Mountain. The majority of the populated areas are increasing in density. This runs parallel with an increase in diversity, not only of the type of people who live, work, and visit here, but in the growing opportunities – and challenges – that impact our quality of life.
We'll use a theoretical group of ten friends to paint a portrait of the Lehigh Valley and its residents.
DID YOU KNOW?
Lehigh and Northampton counties encompass ...
PEOPLE CALL THE LEHIGH VALLEY HOME
Population Density: 2010 and 2040
Our sample group represents typical demographics, so it’s made up of five men and five women. Two of us are under 18 and two are over 65 years old. Six of us fall somewhere in the middle, however trends indicate we are aging as a population.
Of our friends, eight are white, one is black and one is of another race. Two of our ten friends identify as Hispanic or Latin-American, a group that has grown significantly in the region in the past 25 years.
About half of us are urban dwellers, roughly three of us live in suburbs and two of us prefer a rural lifestyle.
Many of us have lived in the region long-term while some of us are part of an increasing number of migrants to the area. Nearly 36,000 people, or 5.5% of our population, moved into the region between 2011-2015 (U.S. Census).
From 2001-2010 (REMI data), we saw an increase in population of 10.9%. This falls somewhere between the growth of other regions of similar size from 2000-2010 (U.S. Census): Boston (4.6%); Charleston (21.1%);and Colorado Springs (20.1%).
Because we are within 90 miles of seven metropolitan regions in the eastern U.S., including Philadelphia and New York City, we have increased opportunities in areas such as tourism and employment. Two of us travel beyond the region for our jobs each day. Half of our ten friends represent those who are working. Many of them work in the healthcare profession, which is not only the region’s largest employer, but it’s growing fast. The unemployment rate in the Valley is 5% compared to 4.4% nationally (August 2017). Our median income, at roughly $58,500, is higher than the state and national median. Eight of us are high school graduates and three have a bachelor's degree.
Epicenter Lehigh Valley
Seven of us live with our families, including five of us who are married. The average family size is three. Two of the three of us who live alone are women. Based on population projections, we will grow to nearly 13 people by 2040.
Equity in the Lehigh Valley
What is Equity?
Equity means that all people have the same access to the housing, education, employment and transportation resources and opportunities that are essential to quality of life.
Equity is important to allow everyone to reach their full potential and contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of the region. Opportunity refers to the resources and assets needed to achieve success. However, access to opportunity is not equal region-wide.
Equity is vital to supporting a sustainable region. An equitable region is more successful and productive because there are more hands and brains contributing to the betterment of the region.
For this analysis, Equity among different Lehigh Valley populations was calculated using a mix of 14 homeownership, transportation, employment, poverty and education data sets.
What Makes a Place High in Opportunity?
Variables that make up stable housing, a strong educational pathway, an effective transportation network and a vibrant economy all determine access to opportunity in the Lehigh Valley. Overall, nearly 75% of Lehigh Valley residents live in an area of high or very high opportunity. However, analysis shows access to opportunity is not consistent across population sectors. For example, married parents and whites have much greater access to opportunity than single parents, blacks and people who identify as Hispanic or Latino.
Who Has Access?
Scroll through the charts below to see access to opportunity by race, language, education and household type.
Interactive Opportunity Map
The interactive Opportunity Map shows each census tract of the Lehigh Valley, ranging from the lowest to highest access to opportunity. Click on an area of the map to view that tract’s opportunity data and level of access to housing, transportation, employment and education. Toggle the arrows in the window to see population percentages, and click the population layers on and off to see where those populations live, and their level of access to opportunity.
1 - 4
The next sections will sketch a statistical picture of the Lehigh Valley, ranging from the kind of homes we live in to the health challenges we face to the environmental benefits all around us, and more.