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People sure want to come to Washington from other countries—-but not really the city itself. That’s the takeaway from a rundown of the numbers by George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, covered today in the Examiner.
The area gained 200,000 immigrants over the last decade, or 20 percent to the region’s overall 9.6 percent growth rate. Most of that growth, however, came in places like Montgomery County, which now has about 313,000 foreign-born people, and Fairfax County, which has 328,000. The District’s percentage showed almost no change.
It’s a continuation of a longer-term trend in this region, where immigrant communities have settled in places like Falls Church, Virginia and Langley Park, Maryland. A very detailed Brookings Institution report using 2000 Census numbers showed how immigrant populations were mostly growing in the closer-in suburbs rather than D.C. itself, which was the only jurisdiction out of those listed at right to have decreased in population overall between 1990 and 2000.
It’s also a loss for the city: Immigrants are often the ones who start businesses and revitalize commercial corridors (bringing the best food with them). Of course, it’s not obvious how a city makes itself more immigrant-friendly; established communities create their own magnetism, and with places like D.C.’s Chinatown quickly atrophying, clusters in the ‘burbs already have a head start.
But availability of jobs and affordable housing also has a lot to do with where immigrants settle, just like any other demographic. On that basis, D.C. should try to compete for its share.