Harrisburg is a city located in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. With a 2020 population of 49,301, it is the 9th largest city in Pennsylvania and the 804th largest city in the United States. Harrisburg is currently growing at a rate of 0.07% annually but its population has decreased by -0.46% since the most recent census, which recorded a population of 49,528 in 2010. Harrisburg reached it's highest population of 89,544 in 1950. Spanning over 12 miles, Harrisburg has a population density of 6,072 people per square mile.
The average household income in Harrisburg is $51,552 with a poverty rate of 27.74%. The median rental costs in recent years comes to $834 per month, and the median house value is $78,900. The median age in Harrisburg is 31.2 years, 30.3 years for males, and 32.3 years for females. For every 100 females there are 88.6 males.
The city was once named as one of the best in the United States for raising a family, although it has faced some economic troubles in recent years.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the city’s largest employer, providing jobs to nearly 22,000 people. The United States government, Giant Food Stores, Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Hershey Entertainment and Resorts are also top employers in the city, together providing tens of thousands of jobs to residents.
Harrisburg Population Growth
Since the 1960s, the of Harrisburg has been on the decline. At its peak, the population was almost 90,000 at the time of the 1950 census. However, by the time of the next census, it had dropped to below 80,000. This trend continued until the 2000 poll, which showed that the population was below 50,000. While the city’s population did increase between 2000 and 2010, it was just by over 1%. Recent estimates show that the population is down since the last census, indicating that the city’s financial issues and other problems continue to plague Harrisburg.
The region that is now the city of Harrisburg is believed to have been inhabited as far back as 3000 BC. Before being settled as a city, it was a crossroads for traders in its earliest days. Europeans did not reach the area until the early 1600s but did not settle at that time. The first European to settle in the area was John Harris, Sr. in 1719, later acquiring 800 acres of land. Toward the end of the 18th century, Harris’ son made plans for a town, and Harrisburg (named after the elder Harris) was incorporated in 1791. The city was designated as the capital in 1812.
In its earliest days, Harrisburg was a rural town. After being named as the capital, the capitol building was built in 1822, and the city began to expand, and its population grew. The Pennsylvania Canal, residential homes and businesses were constructed during the early 1800s. At the time of the Civil War, Harrisburg served as a training center and rail center for the Union. It was targeted twice by the Army of Northern Virginia. Harrisburg was also a stopping point of the Underground Railroad.
During the late 19th century, the city’s economy was centered on the steel and iron industries. The Steelton Borough in particular was known for its production of steel. The neighborhood had its downtown, houses and housed over 16,000 people. The rail yard also grew as industrialization took hold of Harrisburg.
However, in the 20th century, the industrial sector went into decline, and more people moved from the city limits to the surrounding suburbs. It was at this time that the city’s economy shifted to service industries including health care. Despite this, the population continued to decline after 1950. The city population continued to drop into the 1990s.
In the 21st century, mishandling funds put Harrisburg in a financial crisis. Most notably, trash to electricity plant that was supposed to boost the economy brought a debt of hundreds of millions of dollars. The total debt today has been estimated to be over $1.5 million, though missing audits and other issues have prevented an official total from being determined. In 2011, the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy which was dismissed. A receiver was appointed to help handle the finances as city assets were seized. A plan was announced in 2013 to bring the city out of debt, a plan that is currently being put in place.