Our metropolitan spotlights focus on selected metros, showing how they're faring relative to others in their region and nationally.
Where Poor Washingtonians Live
Compared to many other metros, the Washington region has weathered the Great Recession and its aftermath relatively well. Nonetheless, unemployment remains stubbornly high and, at latest count, the region's poverty rate stood at 8 percent.
Like most big cities, the District of Columbia has a higher rate of poverty than the surrounding suburbs. Today, it is two and a half times higher in DC than in the region as a whole. But poverty isn't confined to the central city. The total number of poor people living in the region's suburbs today (370 thousand) far exceeds the number living in DC (102 thousand).
Even though three quarters of the area's poor live in the suburbs, almost all dangerously high-poverty neighborhoods are in the city. Most scholars classify Census tracts with poverty rates above 30 percent as "high-poverty," and research shows that they face elevated risks of crime, distress, and social isolation. Beginning at the end of the 1990s, the District of Columbia experienced a dramatic turn-around in population and prosperity. Widespread neighborhood revitalization reduced the number of high-poverty tracts from 37 to 31. Nonetheless, only one high-poverty tract in the Washington region is located outside the District.
Like the region's overall population, the poor population has become more diverse over the past two decades. In 1990, the Washington region was home to relatively few Latinos or Asians — non-Hispanic Whites and Blacks accounted for 67 and 26 percent of the population respectively. So, not surprisingly, there were relatively few Latinos or Asians among the region's poor. Today, Blacks account for almost half of the poor population — at 45 percent — followed by Whites (37 percent), and Latinos (18 percent). Current data are not available for Asians or other groups.
Poor Blacks are much more likely to live in DC than either poor Whites or poor Latinos. In fact, as the right-hand panel of the map below shows, poor Blacks are clustered in DC neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, while poor Whites and Latinos are much more widely scattered across the region as a whole.