Community indicators cover a broad range of measures of what makes a region and community appealing to live in, including civic participation such as charitable giving and voting, crime and incarceration rates, population density, air and water quality, and the quality of housing. Compared to its peer counties and the state and nation, Lancaster is stronger in charitable giving, and has generally lower violent crime and incarceration rates. However, Lancaster has higher rates of air and water pollution and greater racial disparities in incarceration than many of its peer counties.

Charitable giving was comparatively strong in Lancaster County. In 2020, the average charitable contribution in Lancaster County was $20,823, above the average for Pennsylvania ($14,586) and the U.S. ($15,934), and higher than in any surrounding county.

In 2021, 69% of voting-age Lancaster County residents were registered to vote, below the overall Pennsylvania rate (84%), the rates of several neighboring counties (Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin and Yorks), and down since 2000. However, voter participation was about average: in 2020, 67% of voting-age people in Lancaster County cast votes in the election, similar to the statewide rate of 68% but above the national rate of 62%.

The age of housing stock in an area gives an indication of supply, demand, local construction levels, and the overall quality of housing available. On average, Lancaster County has newer housing stock than the state, but older stock than the nation. Eighteen percent of Lancaster County’s housing stock has been constructed since the 2000s. This was above the Pennsylvania level of 12%, but below the nation at 21%. By contrast, 20% of Lancaster County’s housing stock was constructed before the 1940s. This was below Pennsylvania’s 26%, but above the nation’s 12%.

Lancaster County had a 2021 population density of 587 people per square mile, above the Pennsylvania level of 290 and the U.S. level of 94. Of area counties, Lancaster has the second highest population density, behind Chester (718). Parts of the county differ dramatically in population density. In the City of Lancaster, the density is 7,957 people per square mile.

In comparison to peer counties and the state, Lancaster had more challenges to air and water quality. In 2021, 51% of days in Lancaster were healthy air days, below 64% in 2000. The year with the fewest healthy air days was 2014, at 34%. Lancaster lags behind its peer counties in air quality: in 2021, 67%-80% of days in peer counties were healthy air days. The air quality of York, Lebanon, Dauphin, Cumberland and Berks have all increased significantly since 2000.

Lancaster had higher rates of stream pollution than the state as a whole and most neighboring counties. In 2022, 70% of Lancaster’s streams were pollution-impaired for aquatic life, 4.2% were impaired for fish consumption, 62% were impaired for recreation and 1.0% were impaired for water supply. These were significantly above state rates of 21% for aquatic life, 12% for recreation, and 0.1% for water supply, but below the 6.0% for fish consumption. 

Lancaster’s average water use was below its peers: at a daily average of 29 gallons per person, Lancaster County used less water per capita in 2015 than the state, overall, which had a rate of 41 gallons per capita, and also less water than all comparison counties. This was also well below the national rate of 72 gallons per capita, daily.

Lancaster had lower rates of reported violent crime and incarceration than the state and neighboring counties. In 2021, there were 1.1 violent crimes reported per 1,000 residents in Lancaster County, lower than the Pennsylvania (2.8) and national (4.0) rates. In 2019, the average Lancaster County jail population was 1.4 county jail inmates per 1,000 residents, down 33% from 2006. This was below the 2.4 incarceration rate of Pennsylvania as a whole and lower than most neighboring counties.

Despite its lower rates, racial disparities in incarceration were evident in Lancaster. In 2018, the latest year for which data is available, African Americans in Lancaster were incarcerated at a rate of 130 persons per 10,000 residents, more than eight times the rate of 16 per 10,000 for white residents. Latinos, at 60 per 10,000 residents, were incarcerated at nearly four times the rate of white residents. This was greater than the overall disparities in Pennsylvania, where African Americans were incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites and Latinos at 2.2 times the rate of whites.