In 1919, the world's first commercial radio station, KDKA, began broadcasting here from a small garage owned by Frank Conrad. In 1923, Wilkinsburg-based Russian immigrant Vladimir Zwyorkin designed and patented the iconoscope, the photocell "eye" of early television cameras.
Wilkinsburg was founded and developed by highly religious European immigrants. The borough has a remarkably high concentration of churches, mostly Protestant, which is unusual in a predominantly Catholic region of the country. Also, bars are prohibited within the borough limits. In 1871, Wilkinsburg separated from the city of Pittsburgh in order to (according to borough leader James Kelly) maintain the religious integrity of the community.
In more recent years, the borough has fallen on harder times, with many of its residents living in public housing. In 2000, Wilkinsburg received unwanted national attention when a man suffering from schizophrenia shot two and wounded three others at a fast food restaurant in the borough.
As of the census of 2000, there are 19,196 people, 9,138 households, and 4,477 families residing in the borough. The population density is 3,222.4/km² (8,335.1/mi²). There are 10,696 housing units at an average density of 1,795.5/km² (4,644.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the borough is 29.25% White, 66.51% African American, 0.38% Native American, 0.81% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.55% from other races, and 2.44% from two or more races. 1.13% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 9,138 households out of which 22.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 24.3% are married couples living together, 20.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 51.0% are non-families. 44.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.5% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.06 and the average family size is 2.91.
In the borough the population is spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 23.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.8% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 38 years. For every 100 females there are 78.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 72.0 males.
The median income for a household in the borough is $26,621, and the median income for a family is $33,412. Males have a median income of $26,813 versus $26,196 for females. The per capita income for the borough is $16,890. 18.7% of the population and 15.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 30.8% are under the age of 18 and 14.2% are 65 or older.