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D.C.-born residents predominantly live on the eastern end of the city, analysis shows

Curbed logo Curbed 12/14/2018 Andrew Giambrone
a train crossing a street in front of a building: The Big Chair sculpture in Anacostia © The Washington Post/Getty Images The Big Chair sculpture in Anacostia

They compose roughly 70 percent of the population in some neighborhoods, but just a tenth in others

A new analysis of U.S. Census data by the D.C. Policy Center (DCPC), a local think tank, underscores big demographic differences between the east and west sides of the District.

Several neighborhoods on the eastern end of D.C., including Anacostia and Kenilworth, have adult populations that are roughly 70 percent native Washingtonian. Meanwhile, in many neighborhoods on the western end of the District, only about one in ten adults were born in the city. Some western-end neighborhoods, such as Foggy Bottom and West End, have even smaller proportions of D.C.-born adults, of just around five percent in certain census tracts.

DCPC says the disparities in shares of native Washingtonians between various parts of the city “reflect a range of factors...that are deeply tied into historical patterns of land use and residential segregation.” It points out that the percentages it cites “are not exact” because of the relatively small sample sizes in the census estimates it studied, but also that since 1970, the city’s overall share of D.C.-born adults has basically stayed between 20 and 32 percent.

a close up of a map © D.C. Policy Center

“D.C.-born residents have never accounted for a large majority of the city’s population, but the past decade of sharp population growth has altered many of the city’s neighborhoods,” the think tank notes. Among those that have seen the most demographic change are the H Street NE corridor and Trinidad. “It’s an area where significant commercial investment from developers and renovations of older homes are attracting a steady stream of new residents,” according to DCPC. Several other Northeast neighborhoods also saw “noticeable drops in shares of D.C.-born residents” from 2010 to 2016 as residents from other places moved in.

In farther-east census tracts, however, the percentage of adults who were born in the city increased over that period, in some cases by 10 or 15 percentage points, per the think tank. The District was once commonly called “Chocolate City,” but its racial and socioeconomic composition has shifted. Some research shows that after the recession, poverty increased east of the Anacostia River—in D.C.’s Wards 7 and 8—and residents there did not recover.

a close up of a map © D.C. Policy Center

DCPC also found that among those who moved to the District from elsewhere, the biggest share—approximately 18 percent—came from abroad. “Within the U.S., the state with the single highest tally of native residents is New York, accounting for about six percent of D.C. adults, the think tank explains. “While one might assume many longtime D.C. residents were born in Maryland or Virginia hospitals, the Census estimates suggest they each accounted for only slightly more than four percent of the District’s adults.” The census data is self-reported.

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