Where else but in Pennsylvania can you grab a Philly cheese steak, walk in the Allegheny Forest, visit the birthplace of the U.S. Marine Corps and then top it off with a visit to the Hershey chocolate factory?
Nicknamed both the Quaker State and the Keystone State, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a medium-sized Mid-Atlantic state bordered by six states – New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio – as well as Lake Erie at its northwest corner. Located in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh region is balanced by the wilderness of the countryside, including whitewater rafting and hiking, and the city’s arts and culture, including music from the Pittsburgh Symphony at Heinz Hall.
To the northeast are the Pocono Mountains while the Appalachian Mountains cut through the center of the state. Approximately 60% forested, Pennsylvania is home to the famous Dutch Country area, a cluster of rural counties in the southeast corner where things move at a much slower pace. Here, the Amish communities eschew cars in favor of horse buggies and go about their days as they might have a century ago. This is in stark contrast to bustling Philadelphia, the nearby metropolis on the Delaware River along the eastern border with New Jersey.
Pennsylvania’s more than 12.7 million residents - the sixth largest state population and the ninth highest population density in the U.S. - live in either a borough or city. A borough can only become a city after it has reached a population of 10,000. Many boroughs, however, do not change their designation to a city because a city requires a more expensive form of government.
So whether you choose to reside in a borough or city, home prices vary across the state. As of early 2016, the median home value in Pittsburgh was $96,517 – a remarkable $87,000 less than the national median. Meanwhile, in “Philly,” which is approximately an hour by express train from New York City, the median home value was $146,948, still below the U.S. median. Yet there are many pricey suburbs in the sprawling Philadelphia metro area, the sixth largest in the U.S. with more than 6 million people across Pennsylvania and bordering states. Upscale suburbs such as Haverford, Berwyn, New Hope, Villanova and Fox Chapel all had median values above $500,000.
Statewide, the median home value was $168,293 in early 2016, while the median household income was $52,548, which is nearly even with the U.S. median. As for the racial makeup, 82% of the population is white, 10% is black, 5% is Hispanic, 2% is Asian and 1% is multiracial. Germans represent the largest ethnicity with approximately 18% of the population identifying as this heritage, followed by the Irish and Italians at 10% and 9%, respectively.
Steel and iron manufacturing was once a large part of Pennsylvania's economy, but by the mid-1980s, a recession, increasing automation and foreign competition contributed to the closure or restructuring of many factories. Nearly 136,000 jobs were lost. Today, the industrial machinery and equipment industry is the largest employer with 12% of the workforce, followed by fabricated metal products (11%), food products (11%), chemicals and allied products (9%) and printing and publishing (7 percent). As of 2015, Pennsylvania was also home to 18 Fortune 500 employers, including Hershey Foods, H.J. Heinz, Rite Aid, PNC Financial Services, Comcast, Aramark and the largest of all, AmerisourceBergen, a pharmaceutical distribution and sourcing company. And, despite the changing metals manufacturing climate, Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel remains the 176th largest company in the country.
All told, there are over 450 public and private degree-granting colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia’s elite Ivy Leaguer the University of Pennsylvania, ranked ninth in the country by U.S. News & World Reports in 2015. Other well-respected institutions include Swarthmore College, Bucknell University, Bryn Mawr College, Carnegie Mellon University and Penn State.