Census shows 20-somethings propel D.C.’s population growth

An influx of young people account for almost all of D.C.’s population growth in the last decade, according to 2010 census figures. Now, as the Washington Post reports, people in their 20’s and 30’s account for a full third of the district’s population.

According to the Post, “the increase was steepest in the wards that encompass Capitol Hill, the Northeast, downtown, Shaw and Logan Circle.” Although the census figures cannot be broken down by age and race, the urban transplants are likely the primary cause of gentrification in the district, especially in wards 1 and 6.

While the black population in the district fell by 39,000, the white population increased by a whopping 50,000 over the decade, filling the newly constructed high-rise apartment buildings popping up in Columbia Heights and Navy Yard. As of 2010, blacks only retained a bare majority of 50 percent in the district, a figure which reached to 70 percent in the 1970’s.

These urban transplants are highly educated and were attracted to D.C. by the prospect of employment. With this inundation of young people, neighborhoods like Adams Morgan, Penn Quarter, Columbia Heights, and Logan Circle have seen the development of posh bars, chic cafes, and expensive restaurants—all of which cater to young people. D.C. was previously known as very much a working city. Now, it’s known as a modern, fun city.

Many people are cheering D.C.’s new youthful identity. The tax revenue generated by these young people have been propping up the district’s finances in recent years. Alice Rivlin, a former chair of the D.C. Financial Control Board, was quoted in the Post, saying: “This reflects the resurgence of the city over the decade.” Largely due to these new residents, the D.C. metropolitan area’s educational attainment is the highest in the country.

Others are less pleased with the way that the District of Columbia is heading. The growth plan for the city was set by a former mayor Anthony Williams, who saw ending the district’s population decline as a way to catalyze investment and stimulate tax revenue. As wealthier residents move into the district, property values increase, causing the cost of housing to rise, and  forcing many longtime residents of the district to leave.

Maurice Jackson, a Georgetown professor of African American history, was quoted in the Post, saying: “No opportunities are being created for low- and middle-income people in the city… I drive to Georgetown every day, and very rarely do I see African Americans on construction jobs.” D.C. City Council members from Wards 7 and 8 have been fighting the recent trend in gentrification since it began on a large scale several years ago.

Photo: Andrew Wiseman (Via Flickr)

One Comment on “Census shows 20-somethings propel D.C.’s population growth

  1. Really happy to see Vox covering DC-wide issues. (Side note: Whatever happened to your weekly feature on District-related news? It’s good for Georgetowners to learn a little more about the city they live in). One note: the last sentence in this post is really laden with implications. There are a lot of changes underway in Wards 7 and 8, and generalizing that the CMs for those wards (Yvette Alexander and Marion Barry, respectively) are fighting gentrification is a little impulsive. Barry definitely brandishes “gentrification” in a fear-mongering kind of way, but Alexander is actually quite pro-development and supportive of initiatives like bringing the H St streetcar east of the River to Benning Rd, which one might see as the start of gentrification in Ward 7. Was bringing Ray’s the Steaks east of the River to Ward 7 also a sign of gentrification, or a sign of forward progress?

    Point is, it may be worth looking a little deeper into the west of the River vs. east of the River divide on gentrification and growth issues, rather than writing it off in one quick conclusion. I know plenty of Hoyas who are interested in what goes on “over there” and it could be beneficial to dig into this a little deeper for that purpose.

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