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A new analysis by DC Action for Children, a local nonprofit devoted to child welfare, shows “significant disparities” among the District’s families across all eight wards. The analysis relies upon 20 indicators of well-being based on recent U.S. Census and local data.
The so-called ward “snapshots” find that Wards 5, 7, and 8 contain some of the largest numbers of children yet have the lowest median family incomes, even as the median income in D.C. increased by roughly 18 percent between 2010 and 2013. At least one in five children in Wards 1, 5, 6, 7, and 8 live in poverty, the analysis reports; the total child poverty rate in D.C. dropped by less than one percent during the same period.
“Our city is becoming more complex in terms of diversity, racially and economically,” says HyeSook Chung, executive director of DC Action for Children. “Instead of a city of black and white, it’s a tale of three cities where we have this growing middle class. But who’s benefitting from this influx of wealth? There are still deep cycles of poverty in Wards 7 and 8, where many families are being left behind.”
Chung highlights Ward 5 as a place where “dynamic changes” are beginning to manifest themselves. Her colleague, Shana Bartley, a policy and program manager at DC Action, explains that a lot of development has sprung up in Ward 5 neighborhoods, particularly near Metro stations, but that child poverty rates haven’t budged so much when compared with double-digit growth in median family income:
According to the analysis, the child poverty rate grew in Wards 4 and 8 from 13 to 18 percent and from 48 to 51 percent, respectively. (Ward 8 was the only ward where median family income decreased, by 8.3 percent.) In addition, the total count of D.C. children enrolled in Medicaid increased by 12 percent, whereby large jumps were seen in Wards 4 through 8, the snapshots find:
Although Chung says “quick fixes” to socioeconomic issues affecting children are rare, she adds that preventative strategies like investing more in early-care and education programs like home visits could eventually bolster life outcomes for residents of the hardest-hit areas. Of recent note, Chung says, is a proposed paid-family leave policy, which may reduce the burden of economic circumstances on families.
“When parents do economically well, children benefit,” she says.
The organization used data from the 2010 Decennial Census, the 2006-2010 and 2009-2013 American Community Surveys (which are five-year estimates by the Census Bureau), the D.C. Department of Health, and D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education. You can explore the interactive data here.
Screenshots via DC Action for Children