Economic inequality is widening in the District despite stable overall growth, according to an analysis of the latest U.S. Census data on income and poverty. The study finds that people of color aren’t benefitting from D.C.’s boom times to the same extent as their white peers, who saw a 12 percent increase in median household income from 2007 to 2016.
Based on official numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey released yesterday, the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute contends that by various measures, the District’s black and Hispanic populations are falling behind. As of last year, the median annual income for black families, $37,891, was just 30 percent of the median annual income for white families, $127,369. The black median income was also down more than $4,000 as compared to 2015 (when it was $42,062), “a rare statistically significant year-over-year change,” the nonprofit DCFPI explains in a release.
Furthermore, from 2007 to 2016, the black poverty rate rose more than 5 percentage points, from 22.7 percent to 27.9 percent, while the white poverty rate hovered just above 7 percent. Last year, the poverty rate for D.C.’s total population of around 650,000 was 18.6 percent, meaning the black poverty rate was almost 10 percentage points higher than that.
This translates to about 120,000 District residents who are considered impoverished by federal standards. (The poverty line is currently $19,000 for a family of three. D.C.’s poverty rate is higher than the national poverty rate of 12.7 percent.)
Among Hispanics, the poverty rate ballooned from 11.6 percent to 17.8 percent between 2015 and 2016, DCFPI says. But for whites, it only grew 0.3 percentage points over the same period, which isn’t a statistically significant change.
The data suggests D.C.’s total economic pie is continuing to grow, with gradual year-over-year increases in median income. Between 2007 and 2016, D.C.’s overall median income grew 20 percent—from roughly $63,00 to $76,000.
“In the face of a strong economy, these widening disparities show how far D.C. has to go toward breaking down the barriers to economic opportunity faced by people of color,” says Claire Zippel, an analyst at DCFPI who focuses on poverty and affordable housing. Her past research has found D.C. has 43,000-odd “extremely low-income” families.
DCFPI has also previously found that the unemployment rate among black residents was higher as of last year than it was before the economic recession—even though the unemployment rates for white and Hispanic residents decreased over that period. Linked with this trend is an increasing poverty rate east of the Anacostia River since the recession.
For a closer look at the census numbers—including geographic differences—view a summary of DCFPI’s analysis here.