City Paper is not for tourists
That sea of light blue dots concentrated in Wards 1 and 2 (and Ward 5’s Bloomingdale)? Those are D.C.’s infamous millennials. The map comes to us courtesy of a wonderful new study from the Urban Institute on the demographic changes in the District. Here are a few key points:
1. The city’s demographic changes aren’t racially equal.
The conventional wisdom is that after the 1968 riots, white Washingtonians fled to the suburbs. That’s not really true, as the chart below shows. Whites started leaving D.C. with the rise of the automobile and the suburbs in the late 1940s and 1950s, not to mention school integration. Instead, it was black residents who started leaving in droves after 1968. Only recently has the white population started to rebound, while the black population has continued to decline.
2. There’s lots of room to grow.
According to the study, D.C. is not in the top 125 American cities by density. Its 9,900 people per square mile isn’t even close to New York’s 26,000. The problem is that the sparsely populated neighborhoods are often resisting growth. If we really want to keep growing without taller buildings, we’re going to need more density in places like Upper Northwest.
3. Displacement is very real.
Look at the two maps below, from 2000 and 2010. See how the Columbia Heights area was dominated by light blue (Hispanic) and peach (black) dots in 2000? No longer.
4. Those changes mean fewer children.
As the black and Hispanic populations of Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant are replaced by new white residents, there are many fewer children in the neighborhoods. This trend may be starting to reverse as young white couples have kids, but it’ll take some time to reverse the decline.
5. Wards 1 and 2 didn’t just get hot in the last few years.
D.C.’s demographic changes vary widely by geography. Even now that the city’s population is booming, Ward 8 has continued to shrink. But that disparity’s existed for decades. In fact, even in the city’s “dark years” of the 1980s and 1990s, the population in wards 1, 2, and 3 was growing as it shrank elsewhere. U Street and Columbia Heights didn’t just start taking off in the past decade; as one source recently told me, “U Street got hot under Marion Barry.” Note that the chart below refers to the 2012 ward boundaries, so what’s listed as Ward 1 wasn’t necessarily Ward 1 back in the 1980s.
There’s lots more to play around with in the study: You can zoom into your block and see how it’s changed. Give it a whirl.
This post has been updated to include additional information.
Images courtesy of the Urban Institute