In 1919, the world's first commercial radio station, 8XK, later relicensed as KDKA, began broadcasting here from a small garage owned by Frank Conrad. In 1923, Wilkinsburg-based Russian immigrant Vladimir Zworykin designed and patented the iconoscope, the photocell "eye" of early television cameras. Today, ABC affiliate WTAE-TV is located in the borough on Ardmore Blvd.
In more recent years, the borough has become economically depressed, with a number of its residents living in public housing. On March 1, 2000, Wilkinsburg received national attention when Ronald Taylor, a man suffering from schizophrenia, killed three people and wounded two others in a spree that occurred in part at the local Burger King and McDonald's restaurants
Wilkinsburg was home to the infamous Larimer Avenue-Wilkinsburg (LAW) Gang, which was indicted by the federal government under the RICO Act. The indictment started in 1995, when the federal government began to arrest many young black males in their late teens and early twenties
Wilkinsburg is located at (40.443827, -79.877371).
As of the census of 2000, there were 19,196 people, 9,138 households, and 4,477 families residing in the borough. The population density was 8,335.1 people per square mile (3,222.4/km²). There were 10,696 housing units at an average density of 4,644.3/sq mi (1,795.5/km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 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. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.13% of the population.
There were 9,138 households out of which 22.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 24.3% were married couples living together, 20.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 51.0% were non-families. 44.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.06 and the average family size was 2.91.
In the borough the population was 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 were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 78.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 72.0 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $26,621, and the median income for a family was $33,412. Males had a median income of $26,813 versus $26,196 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $16,890. About 15.9% of families and 18.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.8% of those under age 18 and 14.2% of those age 65 or over.