Pros & Cons of Living in Philadelphia for Families

The actual translation of Philadelphia’s name is “The City of Brotherly Love.” Depending on your point of view, you could see that as an appropriate moniker or an ironic denunciation. Either way, there’s no denying Philadelphia’s rich legacy and contribution to the history of the United States.

Beyond the brotherly love, the city is also known as the birthplace of American independence, the invention of the beloved Philly Cheesesteak sandwich, and the home of Rocky Balboa, a famed cinematic boxer.

Over the years, Philadelphia has often found itself as a city of “firsts.” The first electronic computer, the first lager beer, the country’s first mint, and the country’s first hospital, zoo, and library all called Philadelphia home. It’s also known for its rich sports history and entertainment district.

With a population of 5.75 million people over its entire metro area, “Philly” remains one of the densest and most populated regions in the United States. It’s the second-largest city on the east coast and the sixth-largest in the country overall. With so many people living here already, there are some great draws and advantages to enjoy. Families looking to move to Philly will want to consider multiple factors before taking the trip.

Here are the top 10 pros and cons of living in Philadelphia.



Philadelphia has plenty to offer for families looking to live in a larger city. There are many reasons for choosing Philadelphia over other major U.S. cities. Here are a few of those positive reasons.

1. The Prime Location

Suppose you want your family to live in the megalopolis, the eastern seaboard of the United States. In that case, Philadelphia has one of the best locations around. It is near the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and provides convenient, easy access to New York City to the north and Washington D.C. to the south. It’s an exciting central location in one of the most heavily-settled areas of the country.

2. A Deep Historical and Cultural Heritage

As a pivotal city in the formation of the United States, Philadelphia has preserved many of the iconic historical sites bound to make residents feel a connection and pride to the national identity.

The highlights of Philly’s preserved history include Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the Liberty Bell, an enduring symbol of freedom. As the country’s first World Heritage City, it’s probably the best place outside of Washington, D.C., to learn more about the roots of America.

3. Reasonable Cost of Living

Philadelphia’s cost of living is indeed slightly higher than the rest of the country. Still, for a major city, it’s quite a bargain. It’s estimated that compared to New York, Philly is 37% cheaper when all the factors are considered. That makes it far more accessible to middle-class families who still want to experience living in a big city.

Pros & Cons of Living in Philadelphia for Families

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4. Plenty of Options for Higher Education

One thing that many families have in common is an eye toward higher education for their children. Philadelphia has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to colleges and universities. While it perhaps doesn’t quite have the educational clout of a place like, say, Boston, impressive options abound. The Philadelphia Big Five highlight the list: La Salle, Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova.

5. The Top-Notch Performing Arts Scene

Philadelphia is renowned for its music scene as a stop for both nationally-known acts and local performers. Every genre of music is represented here, including a classical organization, the Philadelphia Orchestra. Broad Street is also known as the Avenue of the Arts and has a plethora of theaters and drama schools for children and adults alike. There’s always a show in Philly.

6. It’s a Very Walkable City

Philadelphia lends itself nicely to families who prefer to get around on foot. There are myriad ways to enjoy the historical sites and the diverse neighborhoods to learn more about the city. While many tourists may opt for a bus tour, the locals will tell you to stop off and enjoy Philly at your own pace. Exploring a new place on foot can unearth a treasure trove of new and enjoyable places.

7. The Convenient Public Transit System 

As walkable as the city is, sometimes it’s necessary to get around another way. Philadelphia is the center of the Southern Pennsylvania Transit Authority or SEPTA. It provides service to over a million people daily on trains, subways, trolleys, and buses. It travels through all of Philly as well as the surrounding communities. Whether for a work commute or a day of recreation, SEPTA can take you where you want to go.

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8. The Diverse Array of Neighborhoods 

Are you looking for a specific atmosphere to put down roots for your family? You can probably find it in Philadelphia. The city has plenty of highly-desirable neighborhoods with a range of vibes. Each family will need to take a closer look at each area before making a choice, keeping in mind the amenities, housing, parks, and proximity to downtown.

9. Many Public Parks

When Pennsylvania’s founder William Penn founded Pennsylvania in March of 1681, he was said to be so impressed by the vast forested area of the new world that it inspired his vision of what Philadelphia could be.

It was always part of the plan to include open green spaces, and that vision endures today. Philadelphia is home to a nearly endless list of walking trails, waterside parks, playgrounds, and green fields. Some of the best include Franklin Park, with its famous carousel, and Spruce Street Harbor Park on the Delaware River, with a beautiful array of lights at night.

10. Virtually Endless Activities

We could write a separate article on the things to do around Philadelphia. As such a large city, there’s something here for everyone. Children can enjoy some of the hands-on museums or playgrounds. Adults will find a lively nightlife scene with shows, bars, and restaurants. Everyone can enjoy the downtown shopping district and all that’s available there.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the professional sports franchises. These franchises represent all four major American sports: the Phillies, the Eagles, the Flyers, and the 76ers.

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Just as there are many reasons for choosing Philadelphia as your family’s landing spot, some factors may not make everyone happy. Families should consider these factors before deciding to move. Like any city, there are some negatives about living here that everyone should take into consideration. Here are ten of those.

1. Harsh Winter Weather

Despite what pop culture indicates, it’s not always sunny in Philly. The winter weather, in particular, is on par with that of other northeast cities, which is cold. While the average winter temperatures in Philly are above freezing, cold spells can and do often happen, along with over a foot of snow in an average year.

They also see about 43 inches of annual rainfall. If your family is relocating from a warmer climate in the west or south, you may want to consider what that means for getting used to the weather.

2. Crime Rates are Higher than Average

Crime is always rampant in major cities, and Philadelphia is no exception. Unfortunately, Philadelphia is considered in the bottom 10% of American cities regarding safety. Violent crimes are nearly three times more frequent in the city than in the rest of Pennsylvania. There are almost ten times more crimes per square mile. Of course, this will vary depending on the specific neighborhood, so it’s essential to research these details before deciding to buy a home.

3. Schools are Inconsistent

Families will find a mixed bag in Philadelphia’s public school system. While the city does run some highly-rated schools, the overall rating of the city’s education is lower than average. The key is finding out which neighborhoods have access to better facilities in the town. If schooling is one of the top priorities for your family, perhaps looking outside the city is the best bet for you.

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4. It’s Difficult to Drive Around

For as walkable as Philadelphia is, it may be just as undrivable. It’s consistently ranked as one of the worst American cities for traffic, especially during rush hour. There are plenty of factors for this: the city’s enormous population, its bustling tourism industry, and the narrow city roads, to name just a few. If your family isn’t used to sitting in difficult traffic, then be prepared to make the adjustment in Philly.

5. Parking is Tough to Find

Perhaps it’s better not to own a car living in Philadelphia. It will come as no surprise that the parking issues go hand-in-hand with the traffic issues. Parking in the city is competitive. Native Philadelphians know it takes a keen focus to find the best available parking spaces. Even then, they will have to deal with the predatory nature of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which issues tickets as if they are free samples. The closer you live downtown, the more of an issue parking will become.

6. The City Wage Tax

Like some other cities in the United States, Philadelphia levies a wage tax on its residents and workers. This is an additional income tax paid directly to the city on top of the regular federal and Pennsylvania state taxes. It applies to all residents of Philadelphia regardless of where they work, as well as non-residents who work in the city. While the money does help to keep the city running for everyone, many see it as just another nickel-and-dime process by the government on the earnings of average folks.

7. A Concentrated Job Market

Philadelphia holds vast opportunities for people who work in education and healthcare, owing to the city’s abundance of colleges and hospitals. Still, other folks may not have such an easy time on the job hunt. While there are more opportunities than in other areas of Pennsylvania, other major cities rank much higher regarding jobs. The unemployment rate is relatively high, at over 10%. People should have something lined up before moving the family into the city.

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8. Overcrowding Happens Here

The large population of the city itself, and especially the metro area, causes some resources to be strained, making the city feel overcrowded at times. This contributes to some of the issues with the city schools, the traffic and parking, and the infrastructure.

9. Single Family Housing is Rare

It may not be such a downside to some people, but finding single-family housing within the Philadelphia city limits is not easy. It’s significantly tougher to find for families who may be on a budget and need to find something more affordable. Row houses are a staple of living in Philadelphia. While some people may find it charming, others must come to terms with the idea of sharing walls with neighbors.

10. Air Pollution Remains an Issue

According to Villanova University, Philadelphia has one of the poorer scores for air quality in the entire United States. As with many larger cities, ozone and year-round particle pollution are a problem. Some of the issues can be traced back to traffic issues. At the same time, other factors include the population density and the production industry present here. Either way, you won’t find the air quality of Colorado or Maine.


From the highs of history and the many amenities to the lows of frustrating traffic and crime, Philadelphia runs the gamut for what a family can experience living in a major United States city. While there are good and bad aspects to any city or town where a family attempts to put down roots, there seems to be as much as possible to think about when considering Philadelphia as a permanent destination. Either way, Philly is filled with a diversity of perks and issues guaranteeing an exciting life devoid of boredom.

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