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D.C. may not be the “Chocolate City” it once was, but according to a Census Bureau report released this morning, the city’s population is still mostly black, albeit by the slimmest of margins.
The report finds that as of July 2012, an estimated 316,482, or 50.05 percent, of D.C.’s 632,323 residents were “black or African American.” That’s down from 50.80 percent in July 2011 and 51.60 percent in July 2010. The share of the city’s residents who were black peaked at 71 percent in 1970.
There’s been some debate over whether D.C. is in fact a majority-black city anymore, more than 50 years after it first became one following a population influx from the Jim Crow south and the beginnings of white flight. In 2011, the Brookings Institution demographer William Frey estimated that the city’s black population had already fallen below 50 percent. The census report shouldn’t necessarily be seen as proof that the black majority has held on, given that it’s based on estimates, and that if the black population is a mere 321 people fewer than the report states, blacks are no longer a majority. It’s been nearly a year since July 2012, so there’s a good chance that demographic trends have continued and D.C. has become a majority-less city. (No matter whether the black population is 50 percent or lower, D.C. is nowhere near being majority-white.)
These figures don’t count mixed-race residents as black, listing them as a separate category. The Census Bureau’s July 2012 data for people who are black or part-black show 326,178 residents in this category, or 51.58 percent of D.C.’s population—-clearly, if still tenuously, in the majority.
As I reported previously, D.C.’s overall population grew by 13,303 residents between July 2011 and July 2012. Today’s report breaks down that growth: More than two-thirds of it, or a net gain of 8,953 residents, came from migration from other states, while the remainder came from the difference between total births (9,156) and deaths (4,873). (The figures don’t add up perfectly, due to what the Census Bureau calls a “residual,” which results from adjustments to the estimates.)
Photo by Darrow Montgomery