Region Forward Blog

The Morning Measure: Some perspective on population and income growth in Washington

Dec 22, 2010


The news coming out of the Census Bureau about D.C.’s first decade of population growth since the 1950s is promising. This is representative of a growing trend that shows cities across the country after being prematurely pronounced dead are experiencing a renaissance in population growth as well as cultural and economic importance. Daniel Nairn from the Sustainable Cities Collective puts some of the new census data to show that income growth in central cities and closer-in suburbs in the U.S. has outpaced the rate of growth in farther-flung areas.

The New York Times has a piece discussing the recent reversal of fate for D.C. in particular noting that the city “long a symbol of the country’s urban ills is now among the national leaders in income growth.” While population and income growth is indeed a positive indicator for the city and the region and something to be proud of the piece also points out that much of the income growth comes in parts of the city where new professionals moved in bringing new development and gentrification with them. Some of the city’s population didn’t enjoy the economic boom and this has worsened the situation in areas that were already relatively poor. As the NYT article indicates about 1/3 of the city’s census tracts actually experienced declines in income over the past decade.

Unemployment has doubled for residents with just a high-school diploma and black unemployment is at a 30-year peak. In short “It’s the classic story of a rising tide that is not lifting all boats” Ed Lazere policy director at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute told the Times. “There are a lot of residents not able to connect with the city’s economic engine. And the city’s becoming more expensive around them.”

RF aims to make the economic growth experienced by much of D.C. a reality for all parts of the city and the region. If the multiple and ambitious targets aimed at increasing educational and employment opportunities and outcomes as well as providing more affordable housing are met one of the key challenges that prompted RF – the need for inclusive growth – will be closer to being achieved.

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