“In an equitable D.C., no child would be poor.”
That’s one takeaway from an analysis released today by the D.C.-based Urban Institute that delves into forms of inequality among the District’s black, white, and Hispanic residents. It isn’t just a truism, either: “The poverty rate for white children in D.C. is essentially zero,” the authors of the interactive report explain, “a staggering distance from the 38 percent black child poverty rate and the 22 percent Hispanic child poverty rate.” From 2010 to 2014, the analysis adds, the overall poverty rate for black residents was more than three and a half times that for white residents (26.5 percent versus 7.4 percent), while the overall poverty rate for Hispanic residents was almost two and a half times that for white residents (17.1 percent versus 7.4 percent). Given recent figures, economic equality would look like the graph below, based on data crunched from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey:
Much of the analysis is derived from census data culled by NeighborhoodInfo DC, a collaboration between the Urban Institute and an affiliate of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership. The report puts data points related to income, housing, health, and other measures of well-being in socioeconomic context. Take housing: The Urban Institute finds that families of four earning under $53,500 per year (considered “very low income”) can afford 7 percent of rental units west of Rock Creek Park but 67 percent of rental units east of the Anacostia River.
“Though renters of all races struggle to find affordable places to live in D.C., black and Hispanic renters have higher housing cost burdens than white renters, meaning that they pay more than 30 percent of their monthly incomes on rent,” the authors note. Namely, according to data on city-wide rental expenses from 2010 to 2014:
Race-correlated gaps in financial power appear in opportunities to purchase homes, too. First-time homebuyers with the average black and Hispanic household incomes could have afforded less than one-tenth and one-third, respectively, of D.C. homes sold between 2010 and 2014. Meanwhile, families with the average white household income could have bought two-thirds of those homes, “including all homes sold in Ward 7 and 8,” per the report.
Job numbers show similarly stark divides, with the District’s black unemployment rate (19.5 percent) more than 5.5 times greater than that of whites and more than double that of Hispanics. (It’s also above the national black unemployment rate of 16.1 percent.) “In an equitable D.C., 2,200 more Hispanic residents and 24,00 more black residents would be employed, including more than 17,000 residents in Wards 5, 7, and 8,” the researchers note.
Racial equity is desirable for various social reasons, but the authors primarily argue that it would bring economic benefits for D.C. as a whole, given that higher incomes lead to bigger business and educational investments. In 2012, according to one statistic they cite, the District’s gross domestic product “would have been more than $65 billion larger” had people of color earned the same as their white peers: $175 billion versus $110 billion in reality.
You can read the full analysis, which features ward-level data, here.