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D.C.’s reputation as a transient city is well founded, with low-income residents especially likely to have left the District over the past decade, according to a study released today. Researchers from the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer crunched the numbers on tax filings between 2004 and 2012 and determined that just 23 percent of the 42,257 people who first filed their D.C. taxes in 2004 remained on the tax rolls in 2012. Those numbers come with a substantial caveat: People who changed their status from single to filing jointly disappeared from the tax rolls. And indeed, of the 28,725 first-time single filers in 2004, only two continuously remained single every year through 2012.
Still, the numbers are revealing, particularly when they’re broken down by income. Of people who were in the highest income quintile when they arrived in D.C. in 2004, 41 percent were still on the tax rolls in 2012. Compare that to the lowest quintile, where only a quarter remained. This contrast points to the oft-discussed (and oft-rebutted) notion that the city’s economic growth and rising costs have pushed out lower-income residents in the past 10 years.
But in contrast to a recent OCFO report finding that residents are more likely to leave the District when they have children, this study concludes that people are much more likely to remain on the tax rolls after claiming a dependent. Of filers who added a dependent since first filing in 2004, 55 percent remained on the tax rolls through 2012. Only 19 percent of people who didn’t add dependents stayed on the rolls.
According to OCFO, the odds that an average person moving to the District in 2004 would leave the tax rolls by 2012 were six to one. If that person changed his or her tax status, those odds were cut in half, to three to one. And if the person added a dependent, they went down to two to one. But as OCFO notes, “the exit rate is still high given the transient nature of this city.”
Graphs from the OCFO report