(Illustration by Idil Gözde)

Facts you should know about the small towns of Southwestern Pennsylvania

By Victoria Zuber and Natasha Khan


Greene County

Washington County

Fayette County

Beaver County

Westmoreland County


While unemployment spiked during the Great Recession, many counties recovered to near or just below their 1990 levels by 2016.

Population change

Butler County’s population increased by 23 percent, the highest relative increase out of all the Southwestern Pennsylvania counties.

Washington County was the only other county that gained residents. Allegheny County experienced a population loss of 8 percent, supporting the idea that people are leaving the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

Median income

Butler County not only has the highest increase in population, but it also has the highest median income. It is the only county in Southwestern Pennsylvania to reach a median of higher than $60,000 per year.

Opioid overdose deaths

The toll of the unprecedented overdose crisis in Western Pennsylvania is wide and cuts deep. This map pulls data from the OverdoseFreePA website and shows how the epidemic has affected communities across Western Pennsylvania in the scope of three years: 2014, 2015 and 2016. It highlights which communities were the most affected and the saturation scale reflects the number of overdose deaths in a specific community for a selected year.

Educational attainment

Greene County

Washington County

Fayette County

Beaver County

Westmoreland County

Shale gas drilling

This map shows the rapid proliferation of unconventional drilling, referred to as fracking, since 2005. The wells saturate Southwestern Pennsylvania communities outside the city of Pittsburgh, where the city council banned drilling for natural gas in 2010. Fracking extends through the central region of the state to the northeast. With natural gas prices decreasing lately, companies are drilling fewer unconventional wells in the region.

Click the play button at the bottom of the map to see the growth in shale wells from 2005 to 2017.

Produced byVictoria Zuber and Natasha Khan

Victoria Zuber is a shared fellow between PublicSource and the Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab.

Natasha Khan is PublicSource's interactives & design editor.

IllustrationIdil Gözde

Idil Gözde is an award-winning multidisciplinary content creator
who is known for her whimsical taste and love for illustrating compelling stories.

Web design and developmentNatasha Khan and Cameron Scott

We listen. We investigate.
We tell in-depth stories for a better Pittsburgh.

This project was made possible by generous support from the
Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

The project was developed and edited by Mila Sanina and Halle Stockton.