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Poor People and Poor Neighborhoods in The Washington Metropolitan Area

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Document date: March 01, 1997
Released online: March 01, 1997

The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Urban Institute, its trustees, or sponsors.


This report is the first in a series of studies that will analyze demographic and socio-economic conditions in the Washington metropolitan area from a detailed, spatial perspective. It uses 1980 and 1990 Census data 1 to describe where poor people live in our region, and how the poorest neighborhoods — which demand the most public attention — are changing. This analysis provides a starting point for future studies of the Washington metropolitan region, which will focus on spatial patterns in employment opportunities, affordable housing, non-profit community organizations, access to financial capital, crime prevention, neighborhood quality, health, and welfare reform. All of these analyses will explore conditions and trends at a detailed, neighborhood level for the metropolitan area as a whole. 2 Their purpose is to inform efforts aimed at revitalizing distressed neighborhoods in the District of Columbia and its suburbs, expanding opportunities for the region's poor and minority residents to achieve self-sufficiency and upward mobility; and breaking down barriers of race, language, wealth, and location that undermine the vitality of the Washington region as a whole.

Summary of Findings

The analysis presented in this report yields seven key findings about the spatial distribution of poor people and poor neighborhoods in the Washington metropolitan area:

1. Most Poor People Live Outside the District of Columbia. Only 39 percent of the region's poor residents live inside the District of Columbia, and of those who live in the suburbs, more than half lived outside the Beltway.

2. Most Poor People Do Not Live in High Poverty Neighborhoods. Half of all poor residents of the Washington metropolitan area lived in low-poverty neighborhoods (where less than 10 percent of the population was poor), and only 14.3 percent lived in high-poverty neighborhoods (where more than 30 percent of the population was poor).

3. African Americans Who Are Poor Are Geographically Concentrated. Poor African Americans are four times more likely than poor whites to live in the central city, and twenty five times more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods.

4. Poor African Americans Dispersed Slightly Between 1980 and 1990. Between 1980 and 1990, the African American population (poor and non-poor) shrank in the District of Columbia and grew in the suburbs.

5. Poor Hispanics Are Not Concentrated in Inner-City or High-Poverty Neighborhoods. The region's Hispanic population more than doubled between 1980 and 1990, with increasing numbers of Hispanics (poor and non-poor) in all types of neighborhoods. Although the Hispanic population of high-poverty neighborhoods grew during the 1980s, poor Hispanics are still far less likely than African Americans to live in high-poverty neighborhoods.

6. Low- and Moderate-Poverty Neighborhoods are Racially and Ethnically Varied. Although almost all high-poverty neighborhoods are predominantly black and most white neighborhoods have low poverty rates, an increasing number of low- and moderate-poverty neighborhoods are majority black or ethnically diverse. Poor people live in all types of Washington-area neighborhoods, including those that are predominantly white.

7. High-Poverty Neighborhoods Face Challenges that Warrant Special Attention. Neighborhoods with poverty rates above 30 percent face very high rates of unemployment, poor education, and single-parenting. These problems are shared by lower-poverty neighborhoods, but at significant lower rates.

Although this initial report obviously cannot answer all our questions about poverty in the Washington region 3, it provides clear evidence to contradict a number of common stereotypes about poor people and poor neighborhoods. Specifically, the evidence shows that poverty is not just a central city problem, since most poor people in the Washington metropolitan area live outside the District of Columbia. Moreover, poor people do not inevitably cluster in poor neighborhoods. Overall, only about one in four poor residents of the metropolitan region are concentrated in the poorest, inner-city neighborhoods (neighborhoods where poverty rates exceed 30 percent). But the persistence of racial segregation in our region means that concentrated poverty is almost exclusively black. Neighborhood outcomes are not the same for poor Hispanics as for poor African Americans. Although the total number of poor Hispanics living in the District of Columbia and in high-poverty neighborhoods increased between 1980 and 990, poor Hispanics are far more likely to live in lower-poverty and suburban neighborhoods than are poor African Americans. Finally, the Washington region is not simplistically polarized into rich white neighborhoods and poor black neighborhoods. The rapid growth of the Hispanic population as well as the suburbanization of African Americans have substantially diversified many of the low- and moderate-poverty neighborhoods in the region.

Efforts to combat poverty and its impacts on families and neighborhoods cannot be confined to the District of Columbia. Communities throughout the Washington metropolitan area — central city and suburbs, inside and outside the Beltway — have a stake in the success of these efforts. Every jurisdiction in the region is home to a significant number of poor people, and therefore experiences some of the social and economic consequences of poverty. However, high-poverty, predominantly black neighborhoods in the District of Columbia face particularly acute challenges and warrant special attention. Strategies for restoring the health of these severely distressed communities must acknowledge the unique circumstances of each neighborhood, building upon existing strengths and assets. But in addition, until the Washington region as a whole overcomes the persistence of racial discrimination and segregation, efforts to revitalize poor communities cannot be expected to succeed.

Most Poor People Live Outside the District of Columbia

In 1990, 6.4 percent of Washington area residents — or about 244,000 people — were poor. 4 Although the poverty rate was substantially higher in the central city (16.8 percent) than in the suburbs (4.6 percent), the majority of the region's poor people lived outside the District of Columbia. As Exhibit 1 illustrates, 39.0 percent of the poor population lived in D.C., while 61.0 percent lived in the surrounding suburban jurisdictions. And more than half of all poor suburbanites (53.8 percent) lived outside the Beltway. In 1990, about 95,400 poor people lived in the District of Columbia, 68,900 lived in suburban communities inside the Beltway, and 80,100 lived outside the Beltway. Annex Table A provides data on 1990 poverty populations for each of the major jurisdictions in the metropolitan area.

Between 1980 and 1990, the region's poverty population declined by almost 10,000 people, while the total population increased by 680,000. The total number of poor people living in the District of Columbia dropped about 16,800, while the number of poor people living in the suburbs increased slightly (less than 8,000). Almost all of the net increase in suburban poverty (94.6 percent) occurred outside the Beltway. These changes in the size of the poverty population mirrored trends in the region's total population during the 1980s, when the District's population dropped by 35,000 and the suburbs' grew by almost 720,000 (see Exhibit 2). As a result, in both the District and its surrounding suburbs, the overall poverty rate dropped between 1980 and 1990.

These data contradict two common misperceptions about poverty in the Washington metropolitan area — first, that poverty is a problem for the District of Columbia but not for the rest of the region; and second, that the District's poverty problem is getting worse. In fact, the majority of poor people are scattered across suburban neighborhoods throughout the region, and it is in the suburbs, not the central city, that the poverty population is growing. Nevertheless, the share of total population that is poor is almost four times higher in D.C. than in the surrounding suburbs. Moreover, as discussed further below, the region's poorest and most distressed neighborhoods are clustered within the District of Columbia, intensifying the impact of poverty for government and communities. 5

Most Poor People Do Not Live in High Poverty Neighborhoods

The majority of neighborhoods in the city and in the metropolitan area as a whole have very low poverty rates. As of 1990, poverty rates were below 10 percent in over three quarters (78.7 percent) of the region's Census tracts (see Exhibit 3 and Map 1). Inside the District, over a third of all tracts (35.8 percent) had low poverty rates, and only 18.2 percent had high poverty rates (greater than 30 percent poor). In the surrounding suburbs, nine out of ten tracts (89.9 percent) had low poverty, and there were no high-poverty suburban tracts. 6

We often assume that poor people inevitably cluster in poor neighborhoods. But in fact, most poor people live outside in the region's poorest neighborhoods. In 1990, half (49.9 percent) of all poor residents of the Washington metropolitan area lived in low-poverty neighborhoods. About one third lived in neighborhoods with poverty rates between 10 percent and 30 percent. And only a small minority (14.3 percent) lived in high-poverty neighborhoods (see Exhibit 4). Thus, half of our region's poor people are widely dispersed among the low-poverty neighborhoods in which the majority of non-poor Washingtonians live. Only about 35,000 poor people live in very high-poverty, inner-city communities.

African Americans Who Are Poor Are Geographically Concentrated

Although Washington's total poverty population is quite widely dispersed, patterns differ significantly for African Americans than for whites who are poor. In 1990, just over one quarter (26.3 percent) of the region's population was African American, and 12.6 percent of African Americans were poor, compared to only 3.5 percent of whites. Poor African Americans are far more likely than poor whites to live in the District of Columbia and in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Six out of ten poor blacks (61.1 percent) in the metropolitan area live in the District of Columbia, compared to only 14.1 percent of whites (see Exhibit 5). Among poor blacks who live in the suburbs, 58.5 percent live inside the Beltway, compared to only about a third of poor suburban whites. Thus, poor blacks are almost four times more likely than poor whites to live in the central city, and poor whites are more than three times as likely to live outside the Beltway. Moreover, as shown in Annex Table B, Prince Georges County is the only jurisdiction outside the District with a significant share of the region's poor African American population. Specifically, almost half (47.5 percent) of all poor blacks who live in the suburbs are located in Prince Georges County.

African Americans who are poor are far more likely than whites to live in high-poverty neighborhoods. As Exhibit 6 illustrates, less than a third (29.6 percent) of poor blacks in the region live in low-poverty neighbor-hoods, compared to 76.5 percent of whites. And one in four poor blacks (25.9 percent) lives in a high-poverty neighborhoods, compared to less than one in one hundred whites. In other words, poor blacks are twenty five times more likely than poor whites to live in high-poverty inner-city neighborhoods.

Because poor whites are so much more widely dispersed geographically than blacks, the high-poverty neighborhoods in the Washington metropolitan area are predominantly black. Very few whites live in these high-poverty areas. Only two of the region's 34 high-poverty tracts are less than half black, and 24 (70.6 percent) are more than 90 percent black. This contrasts markedly with the region's 715 low-poverty tracts, of which one third (33.8 percent) are less than 5 percent black, and only 4.6 percent are more than 90 percent black. In all, only about 4,000 whites live in Washington's high-poverty tracts, compared to about 90,000 African Americans.

The stark contrast between concentrated black poverty and spatially dispersed white poverty in the Washington region is typical of many metropolitan areas in the U.S. In American Apartheid, Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton argue that the persistence of residential segregation is responsible for the concentration of poverty in many central cities. 7 In the Washington metropolitan area, most African Americans (63.9 percent) live in neighborhoods that are at least half black, while most whites (60.3 percent) live in neighborhoods that are less than 10 percent black. Because poverty rates are almost four times higher among Washington-area blacks than among whites, neighborhoods that are predominantly black will have higher poverty rates than neighborhoods that are predominantly white, other things being equal. Annex C illustrates how racial segregation results in the concentration of poverty, under varying assumptions about the extent of non-race-based economic stratification. Thus, the existence of high poverty, predominantly black neighborhoods in the District of Columbia is attributable in part to the persistence and severity of racial segregation throughout our region.

Poor African Americans Dispersed Slightly Between 1980 and 1990

Between 1980 and 1990, the total number of poor blacks living in the Washington metropolitan area declined by about 4,000, and poor African Americans became somewhat less concentrated in the District of Columbia. Specifically, the number of poor blacks living in the District dropped substantially (12,000), while the number living in suburban jurisdictions increased (8,000). This shift mirrors changes in the distribution of non-poor African Americans, as shown in Exhibit 7. Between 1980 and 1990, the total number of African Americans living inside the District declined by 28,000, while the number living in suburban jurisdictions increased by 245,000. The biggest increase occurred outside the Beltway, where th African American population almost doubled between 1980 and 1990, growing from 147,200 to 304,300.

Despite the suburbanization of African Americans during the 1980s, the Washington region remained profoundly segregated on the basis of race, as illustrated by Map 2. Virtually all of the neighborhoods in the region that are more than 50 percent black are in the eastern portion of the District or in Prince Georges County, while the majority of neighborhoods in the western portion of the District, in Montgomery County, and in the Virginia suburbs are predominantly white. Moreover, half (52 percent) of the total increase in suburban black population between

1980 and 1990 occurred in Prince Georges County. In other words, the increase in suburban black population that occurred during the 1980s did not result in widespread increase in racial integration throughout the region. Instead, it primarily reflected the dramatic expansion of Prince Georges County's African American population, both inside and outside the Beltway.

The net shift in population from D.C. to the suburbs is dramatically lower for poor African Americans than for those who are not poor. Specifically, the District's share of the region's total black population dropped almost 14 percentage points between 1980 and 1990, while the outer suburbs' share increased 12 points. In contrast, the District's share of the region's poor black population dropped only 7 percentage points, and the outer suburbs' share increased only 4 points. Thus, poor blacks did not share fully in the growing suburbanization of Washington's African American population, with the majority of poor African Americans remaining in the District, and a quarter living in very high-poverty, predominantly black neighborhoods.

Poor Hispanics Are Not Concentrated in Inner-City or High-Poverty Neighborhoods

Poor Hispanics in the Washington metropolitan area are less spatially concentrated than African Americans. They are more likely than blacks to live in the suburbs and substantially less likely to live in high-poverty Census tracts. Only about one in four poor Hispanics (23.8 percent) in the region lived in the District of Columbia in 1990, compared to 61.1 percent of poor blacks. Moreover, as Exhibit 8 illustrates, almost half of poor Hispanics (48.8 percent) lived in low-poverty neighborhoods, compared to only 29.6 percent of poor blacks. And only 5.4 percent of poor Hispanics lived in high-poverty neighborhoods, compared to 25.9 percent of poor African Americans.

Between 1980 and 1990, the total number of poor Hispanics living in the Washington metropolitan area more than doubled, increasing from only about 10,000 to over 25,000. This growth reflected an equally dramatic increase in the region's total Hispanic population, which increased 129 percent, from about 89,000 in 1980 to 213,000 in 1990. As Exhibit 9 shows, the number of Hispanics — including both poor and non-poor — increased in all parts of the metropolitan area. In fact, despite the overall decline in the District's population, the Hispanic population of the District increased by about 14,000 during the 1980s. Nevertheless, the vast majority (88.9 percent) of the region's Hispanic population growth occurred outside the District of Columbia. And 80.0 percent of the growth in the poor Hispanic population occurred in the suburbs as well, suggesting that poor Hispanics were only slightly less likely than non-poor Hispanics to locate in suburban communities.

Hispanics are dramatically under-represented in the District's high-poverty areas. Only 4 of Washington's 34 high-poverty tracts have more than 5 percent Hispanic population, compared to a third of all low-poverty tracts. And only about one in four high-poverty tracts (26.5 percent) have more than 5 percent foreign born population, compared to three in four low-poverty tracts (74.4 percent ). Thus, despite the dramatic increase in the population of poor Hispanics that occurred in the District of Columbia and in the surrounding suburbs during the 1980s, this population did not concentrate in the region's poorest neighborhoods.

Low- and Moderate-Poverty Neighborhoods are Racially and Ethnically Varied

Almost all high-poverty neighborhoods in the Washington region are majority black and most white neighborhoods have low poverty rates. Given the prevalence of residential segregation and the concentration of black poverty, one might expect all of the lower-poverty neighborhoods in the region to be predominantly white. However, a remarkable number of low- and moderate-poverty neighborhoods in the region are majority black or ethnically mixed.

Exhibit 10 and Map 3 display low-, moderate-, and high-poverty Census tracts on the basis of their racial and ethnic composition:

Majority black neighborhoods are defined as tracts where more than 50 percent of the population is African American.

Mixed black and white neighborhoods are areas with significant integration of blacks and whites, but with relatively few Hispanics.

Specifically, these Census tracts are between 10 and 50 percent African American, with fewer than 10 percent Hispanics.

Fully integrated neighborhoods include significant Hispanic representation, as well as blacks and whites. These are tracts with between 10 and 50 percent African American population, and more than 10 percent Hispanic.

Hispanic neighborhoods are those with few blacks, but relatively large Hispanic populations. Specifically, these tracts are less than 10 percent African American, but more than 10 percent Hispanics.

Predominantly white neighborhoods are Census tracts with less than 10 percent African American population and less than 10 percent Hispanic population.

Just under half (48.7 percent) of all low-poverty tracts are predominantly white, and 13.3 percent are majority black. A quarter of low-poverty tracts are mixed black and white, and a much smaller share (7.8 percent) are fully integrated by blacks, whites, and Hispanics. Finally, only 3.2 percent of low-poverty tracts have more than 10 percent Hispanics with fewer than 10 percent blacks.

Tracts with intermediate rates of poverty are also ethnically diverse, although very few (5 percent) are predominantly white. Over half (58.5 percent) are majority black, and 17 percent are mixed black and white. Hispanic representation is higher in these moderate-poverty neighborhoods, with 13.8 percent of tracts integrated by blacks, Hispanics, and whites, and 5.7 percent having more than 10 percent Hispanics but fewer than 10 percent blacks.

Between 1980 and 1990, the share of low- and moderate-poverty Census tracts that were predominantly black, and the share with significant Hispanic representation increased significantly. Specifically, among low-poverty tracts, the share that were more than half black increased from 7.7 percent in 1980 to 13.3 percent in 1990. The share that were integrated by African Americans, Hispanics, and whites rose from zero to 7.8 percent; and the share with more than 10 percent Hispanics but fewer than 10 percent African Americans increased from 0.3 percent to 3.2 percent. The same trends were evident among neighborhoods with intermediate poverty rates, where the share of majority black tracts rose from 51.6 percent to 58.5 percent and the share of fully integrated tracts (blacks, whites, and Hispanics) rose from 5.6 percent to 13.8 percent.

These findings suggest that the Washington region offers a remarkable diversity of neighborhood types. Although there are indeed stark differences between high-poverty African American neighborhoods and low-poverty white neighborhoods, the region also offers a significant (and growing) array of low- and moderate-poverty neighborhoods that are racially and ethnically integrated. Moreover, there is a large and growing number of low-poverty, majority black neighborhoods in the region, particularly in Prince Georges County.

Poor people are well represented in all types of low- and moderate-poverty neighborhoods, although they are slightly under-represented in predominantly white neighborhoods with low poverty rates, and over-represented in majority black neighborhoods with moderate poverty rates. Specifically, as of 1990, 121,900 poor people lived in low-poverty neighborhoods, with more than one third (37.3 percent) in predominantly white neighborhoods, 16.2 percent in majority black neighborhoods, more than one fourth (28.0 percent) in mixed black and white neighborhoods, and just under one fifth (18.5 percent) in neighborhoods with significant Hispanic representation (see Exhibit 11). Among non-poor people living in low-poverty neighborhoods, a considerably larger share (49.7 percent) were in predominantly white neighborhoods, while just over one in ten (11.9 percent) were in majority black neighborhoods, more than one fourth (27.1 percent) were in mixed black and white neighborhoods, and 11.3 percent were in neighborhoods with significant Hispanic representation. Thus, poor people who lived in low-poverty neighborhoods were 25 percent less likely than their non-poor counterparts to live in predominantly white neighborhoods, and more likely to live in neighborhoods that were racially and ethnically diverse.

About 87,500 poor people lived in moderate-poverty areas as of 1990, where they were more likely than their non-poor counterparts to live in majority black neighborhoods. Specifically, as illustrated in Exhibit 12, six out of ten poor residents of moderate-poverty neighborhoods (60.3 percent) lived in predominantly black neighborhoods, compared to just over half (54.7 percent) of non-poor residents. Finally, in 1990, 35,000 poor people lived in high-poverty neighborhoods in the Washington metropolitan area, where their representation in majority black and more racially mixed areas was virtually the same as that of non-poor residents.

High-Poverty Neighborhoods Face Challenges that Warrant Special Attention

Neighborhoods with very high concentrations of poverty face serious social and economic challenges, and warrant special attention. Although Census data do not provide a complete profile of a neighborhood's well-being, 8 they do offer an initial indication of the severe challenges created by the concentration of poverty (see < AHREF="#exh13">Exhibit 13). In Washington's high-poverty neighborhoods, almost half (47.9 percent) of adults over 24 lack a high school diploma, compared to only 14.8 percent for the metropolitan area as a whole, and one in four (25.6 percent) 16 to 19 year-olds are high-school drop-outs, almost three times the rate (8.9 percent) for the metropolitan area. Unemployment is nearly four times higher in high-poverty neighborhoods (15.1 percent) than in the metropolitan area (3.7 percent), and half (49.9 percent) of all adult men are not in the labor force, compared to only 23.8 percent for the region as a whole. Most families with children who live in high-poverty neighborhoods (72.5 percent) are headed by single women, compared to only 23.1 percent of households throughout the region, and almost one fourth (23.1 percent) of households receive public assistance, more than five times the rate (3.9) percent for the metropolitan area as a whole.

Neighborhoods with poverty rates below 30 percent share many of the problems faced by high-poverty neighborhoods, but at significantly lower levels. There is growing evidence that when poverty rates exceed 30 percent, neighborhoods have great difficulty sustaining the economic and civic institutions essential for a healthy community. Poor education, joblessness, teen parenthood, discrimination, and crime all reinforce one another in these high poverty neighborhoods, creating a vicious cycle of poverty, inequality, isolation, and distress. 9 Washington's high-poverty neighborhoods face dramatically more severe challenges with regard to education, employment, and welfare dependency than most other neighborhoods throughout the region.

Despite the serious problems that high-poverty neighborhoods have in common, there are important variations among these neighborhoods and essential assets within them. For example, as shown in Exhibit 14, high-school drop-out rates vary significantly across Washington's high-poverty Census tracts, school drop-out rates vary significantly across Washington's high-poverty Census tracts, suggesting that some schools are more successful, despite the high poverty rates of the neighborhoods in which they are located. Similarly, unemployment rates differ quite significantly across high-poverty Census tracts, with unemployment under 10 percent in almost one in five high-poverty tracts. Interventions which seek to address the special challenges of concentrated poverty must recognize and adapt to the unique circumstances of each neighborhood, building upon existing strengths and assets to the greatest extent possible. 10

Conclusion

Although this initial report obviously cannot answer all our questions about poverty in the Washington region, it provides clear evidence to contradict a number of common stereotypes about poor people and poor neighborhoods:

  • Poverty is not just a central city problem — Most poor people in the Washington metropolitan area live outside the District of Columbia, and more than half of the poor people who live in the suburbs are in communities outside the Beltway. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of poor people living in the District actually declined, while the number living in the suburbs grew.

  • Poor people do not inevitably cluster in poor neighborhoods — Overall, only about one in four poor residents of the metropolitan region are concentrated in the poorest, inner-city neighborhoods (neighborhoods where poverty rates exceed 30 percent). But the persistence of racial segregation in our region means that concentrated poverty is almost exclusively black. African Americans who are poor are four times more likely than poor whites to live in the District of Columbia, and twenty five times more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods.

  • Neighborhood outcomes are not the same for poor Hispanics as for poor African Americans — The Hispanic population of the Washington region, including both poor and non-poor people, is growing rapidly. The total number of poor Hispanics living in the District of Columbia and in high-poverty neighborhoods increased between 1980 and 990, but poor Hispanics are still far more likely to live in lower-poverty and suburban neighborhoods than are poor African Americans.

  • The Washington region is not simplistically polarized into rich white neighborhoods and poor black neighborhoods. The low- and moderate-poverty neighborhoods in which three-quarters of Washington's poor people live vary significantly in terms of their racial and ethnic composition. Poor people live in all types of low- and moderate-poverty neighborhoods, including those that are predominantly white as well as those that are more racially diverse. And the rapid growth in the region's Hispanic population has diversified neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan area.

    The persistence of racial segregation in the Washington metropolitan region plays a critical role in shaping where poor people live. Although it is true that city and suburban neighborhoods are roughly stratified on the basis of income and wealth, the evidence presented here clearly shows that poor whites and poor Hispanics have access to housing opportunities in low-poverty communities throughout the metropolitan area. African Americans who are poor are far more likely to be confined to the poorest and most distressed neighborhoods. As an increasing share of jobs migrate to the suburbs, poor African American communities in the central city are likely to become increasingly isolated, cut-off from access to social and economic opportunities.

    There is no single, one-dimensional remedy to the problem of concentrated poverty. Instead, long-term solutions will require a combination of initiatives that simultaneously revitalize distressed neighborhoods, promote job growth and improve school quality in the central city, link job-seekers to suburban employment opportunities, open up affordable housing opportunities in low-poverty areas, and combat the long-standing patterns of discrimination and segregation that limit location choices for African Americans. Highly concentrated, inner-city poverty threatens the future of individual families, undermines the health of individual neighborhoods, drains city finances, and polarizes the metropolitan community. Washington has made significant progress in recent years in opening up access to suburban and low-poverty communities for African Americans and Hispanics. But unless we explicitly attack the racial segregation that concentrates inner-city poverty, efforts to revitalize our communities and ensure equal opportunity for all poor Washingtonians cannot succeed.

    The information presented in this report provides an initial overview of the spatial distribution of poverty in the Washington region. But in doing so, the report raises at least as many questions as it answers. Decennial Census data are inherently limited; they do not tell us what has happened in our region in the years since 1990; Census tract boundaries do not necessarily correspond to residents' definitions of their neighborhoods; and the Census surveys include only a limited number of indicators that measure neighborhood well-being or distress. Thus, we plan to build upon the findings presented here, merging the decennial Census with other data to analyze:

  • location and accessibility of employment opportunities throughout the region;

  • spatial patterns and trends in the availability of decent and affordable housing;

  • location and occupancy of public housing and other federally assisted housing projects;

  • location and characteristics of non-profit community organizations; and

  • variations in school quality, health care, and crime across neighborhoods.

    All of these future studies will use mapping and spatial statistics to provide the clearest possible picture of variations and trends across the different neighborhoods and jurisdictions that make up the Washington metropolitan region.


    Notes

    1. The Urban Institute's Underclass Data Base contains Census data at the tract level for 1970, 1980, and 1990, and adjusts for changes in Census tract boundaries that occurred over this time period.

    2. This work is being conducted in collaboration with D.C. Agenda's Neighborhood Indicators Project, which is building a centralized data base of current and reliable information about neighborhoods in the District of Columbia and its suburbs.

    3. Decennial Census data are inherently limited; they do not tell us what has happened in our region in the years since 1990; Census tract boundaries do not necessarily correspond to residents' definitions of their neighborhoods; and the Census surveys include only a limited number of indicators that measure neighborhood well-being or distress.

    4. The official poverty line is defined by the federal government, and is adjusted for household size. In 1990, the poverty line for a family of three was $9,885. For more information on defining poverty, see Patricia Ruggles, Drawing the Line: Alternative Poverty Measures and Their Implications for Public Policy, Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute Press, 1990.

    5. Janet Rothenburg Pack, "Poverty and Urban Public Expenditure," draft working paper, Philadelphia: Wharton Real Estate Center, University of Pennsylvania, February 1994.

    6. One suburban tract in the metropolitan region had a reported poverty rate over 30 percent. However, this tract is in College Park, Maryland, and its population is dominated by college students, whose reported income is artificially low. This tract, along one student-dominated tract inside the District of Columbia and the tract containing the National Mall were dropped from our analysis, and are excluded from all tabulations and exhibits.

    7. Douglas S. Massey and Nancy Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993.

    8. Increasingly, neighborhood analysts and activists are experimenting with methods for measuring neighborhood assets as well as deficits. See, for example, John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight, Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing Community Assets, Evanston, IL: Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, Northwestern University, 1993.

    9. See, for example, Erol R. Ricketts and Isabel V. Sawhill, "Defining and Measuring the Underclass," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 7 (1988) pp. 316-325; Paul Jargowsky and Mary Jo Bane, "Ghetto Poverty in the United States, 1970-1980," in Christopher Jencks and Paul E. Peterson (eds) The Urban Underclass, Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1991; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Empowerment: A New Covenant With America's Communities, President Clinton's National Urban Policy Report, Washington, D.C.: 1995.

    10. See, for example, G. Thomas Kingsley, Community Building Coming of Age, The Urban Institute, Washington, D.C.: 1996.


    Exhibits


    Maps


    Annex Tables

    ANNEX TABLE A: 1990 POPULATION AND POVERTY BY JURISDICTION
    JurisdictionTotal
    Population
    Poverty
    Population
    Poverty
    Rate
    Share of
    Total Poverty
    Share of
    Total Population
     
    DC568,66995,39816.8%39.0%14.9%
    Maryland Suburbs
    Charles County99,7305,0075.0%2.0%2.6%
    Calvert County50,9002,6545.2%1.1%1.3%
    Frederick County146,1927,0554.8%2.9%3.8%
    Montgomery County748,38531,6514.2%12.9%19.6%
    Prince George's County707,66139,9915.7%16.4%18.5%
    Virginia Suburbs
    Arlington166,64211,8957.1%4.9%4.4%
    Fairfax803,63628,2103.5%11.5%21.0%
    Falls Church9,5584935.2%0.2%0.3%
    Loudon85,4322,6253.1%1.1%2.2%
    Prince William211,3706,8543.2%2.8%5.5%
    Stafford58,9722,3994.1%1.0%1.5%
    Alexandria109,0827,7327.1%3.2%2.9%
    Fairfax City19,2451,1616.0%0.5%0.5%
    Manassas27,0981,0283.8%0.4%0.7%
    Manassas Park6,6682593.9%0.1%0.2%
    TOTAL3,819,240244,4126.4%100.0%100.0%

    ANNEX TABLE B: 1990 POVERTY BY RACE & JURISDICTION
    BLACKS WHITES
    JurisdictionPoverty
    Rate
    Share of
    Total Poverty
    Poverty
    Rate
    Share of
    Total Poverty
    DC20.2%61.1%7.9%14.1%
    Maryland Suburbs
    Charles County13.6%1.9%3.2%2.8%
    Calvert County15.9%1.0%3.2%1.5%
    Frederick County15.1%0.9%4.2%6.5%
    Montgomery County8.5%6.1%2.9%18.8%
    Prince George's County6.5%18.5%4.2%14.4%
    Virginia Suburbs
    Arlington12.9%1.7%5.2%7.5%
    Fairfax7.9%3.5%2.6%19.3%
    Falls Church10.2%0.0%3.7%0.4%
    Loudon9.8%0.5%2.5%2.2%
    Prince William8.1%1.5%2.5%5.0%
    Stafford8.3%0.3%3.6%2.2%
    Alexandria14.3%2.7%3.8%3.2%
    Fairfax City13.1%0.1%5.4%1.0%
    Manassas7.7%0.2%3.2%0.8
    Manassas Park14.2%0.1%2.8%0.2%
    TOTAL12.6%100.0%3.5%100.0%

    ANNEX C: ROLE OF RACIAL SEGREGATION IN CREATING CONCENTRATED POVERTY NEIGHBORHOODS

    Annex tables C1 through C4 represent simple simulations of the role of racial segregation in creating concentrated poverty neighborhoods in the Washington metropolitan area. They employ a methodology developed by Massey and Denton in American Apartheid. Each table distributes Washington's population of 2,813,900 whites and 1,005,340 African Americans across 16 stylized "neighborhoods," each of which is the same size. The poverty rate among whites is 3.5 percent and the poverty rate among African Americans is 12.6 percent.

    Table C1 represents the Washington region with no racial segregation or economic startification. Each neighborhood is the same, with a population that is 26.3 percent black and a poverty rate of 5.9 percent.

    Table C2 assumes no economic statification, but simulates approximately the degree of racial segregation that exists in the Washington region. Specifically, one quarter of the neighborhoods are virtually all white, one quater are at least half black, and — of the majority black neighborhoods — half are virtually all black. In this scenario, poverty rates vary significantly, from 3.5 percent in the white neighborhoods to 12.6 percent in the black neighborhoods. In other words, when a group with a high poverty rate is gegregated, neighborhoods with relatively high poverty rates are created.

    Table C3 and C4 incorporate economic startification into the analysis, with table C3 simulating economic stratification with no racial segregation, and table C4 simulating both economic stratification and racial segregation. In both C3 and C4, economic stratification is represented by excluding poor people from half the neighborhoods. In other words, for every pair of like neighborhoods, poor people are completely excluded from one.

    The simulation of economic stratification without racial segregation (Table C3) yields non-poor neighborhoods with poverty rates of zero, and poor neighborhoods with poverty rates of 11.8 percent. Note that economic startification alone creates about the same poverty concentration as racial segregation alone in this stylized representation of the Washington metropolitan region.

    When racial segregation and economic stratification are combined (Table C4), the poor black neighborhood has a poverty rate of 25.2 percent, compared to only 7.0 percent for the poor white neighborhoods. Thus, this simplified combination of economic stratification and racial segregation comes close to reproducing the concentration of poverty in the Washington metropolitan area.

    Table C1: No Racial or Income Segregation

    1

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    2

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    3

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    4

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    5

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    6

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    7

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    8

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    9

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    10

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    11

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    12

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    13

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    14

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    15

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    16

    W=175,869
    B=62,834

    5.9% in poverty
    26.3% black

    Table C2: Racial Segregation but no Income Segregation

    1

    W=238,703
    B=0

    3.5% in poverty
    0% black

    2

    W=238,703
    B=0

    3.5% in poverty
    0% black

    3

    W=238,703
    B=0

    3.5% in poverty
    0% black

    4

    W=238,703
    B=0

    3.5% in poverty
    0% black

    5

    W=202,549
    B=36,154

    4.9% in poverty
    15.1% black

    6

    W=202,549
    B=36,154

    4.9% in poverty
    15.1% black

    7

    W=202,549
    B=36,154

    4.9% in poverty
    15.1% black

    8

    W=202,549
    B=36,154

    4.9% in poverty
    15.1% black

    9

    W=202,549
    B=36,154

    4.9% in poverty
    15.1% black

    10

    W=202,549
    B=36,154

    4.9% in poverty
    15.1% black

    11

    W=202,549
    B=36,154

    4.9% in poverty
    15.1% black

    12

    W=202,549
    B=36,154

    4.9% in poverty
    15.1% black

    13

    W=119,352
    B=119,352

    8.1% in poverty
    50.0% black

    14

    W=119,352
    B=119,352

    8.1% in poverty
    50.0% black

    15

    W=0
    B=238,703

    12.6% in poverty
    100% black

    16

    W=0
    B=238,703

    12.6% in poverty
    100% black

    Table C3: Income Segregation but no Racial Segregation

    1
    Non-Poor:
    W=180,459
    B=58,243

    0% in poverty
    2.4% black

    2
    Non-Poor:
    W=159,183
    B=51,376
    Poor:
    W=12,310
    B=15,834

    11.8% in poverty
    28.2% black

    3
    Non-Poor:
    W=180,459
    B=58,243

    0% in poverty
    24.4% black

    4
    Non-Poor:
    W=159,183
    B=51,376
    Poor:
    W=12,310
    B=15,834

    11.8% in poverty
    28.2% black

    5
    Non-Poor:
    W=180,459
    B=58,243

    0% in poverty
    2.4% black

    6
    Non-Poor:
    W=159,183
    B=51,376
    Poor:
    W=12,310
    B=15,834

    11.8% in poverty
    28.2% black

    7
    Non-Poor:
    W=180,459
    B=58,243

    0% in poverty
    24.4% black

    8
    Non-Poor:
    W=159,183
    B=51,376
    Poor:
    W=12,310
    B=15,834

    11.8% in poverty
    28.2% black

    9
    Non-Poor:
    W=180,459
    B=58,243

    0% in poverty
    2.4% black

    10
    Non-Poor:
    W=159,183
    B=51,376
    Poor:
    W=12,310
    B=15,834

    11.8% in poverty
    28.2% black

    11
    Non-Poor:
    W=180,459
    B=58,243

    0% in poverty
    24.4% black

    12
    Non-Poor:
    W=159,183
    B=51,376
    Poor:
    W=12,310
    B=15,834

    11.8% in poverty
    28.2% black

    13
    Non-Poor:
    W=180,459
    B=58,243

    0% in poverty
    2.4% black

    14
    Non-Poor:
    W=159,183
    B=51,376
    Poor:
    W=12,310
    B=15,834

    11.8% in poverty
    28.2% black

    15
    Non-Poor:
    W=180,459
    B=58,243

    0% in poverty
    24.4% black

    16
    Non-Poor:
    W=159,183
    B=51,376
    Poor:
    W=12,310
    B=15,834

    11.8% in poverty
    28.2% black

    Table C4: Both Racial Segregation and Income Segregation

    1
    Non-Poor:
    W=238,703
    B=0

    0% in poverty
    0% black

    2
    Non-Poor:
    W=221,994
    B=0
    Poor:
    W=16,709
    B=0

    7.0% in poverty
    0% black

    3
    Non-Poor:
    W=238,703
    B=0

    0% in poverty
    0% black

    4
    Non-Poor:
    W=221,994
    B=0
    Poor:
    W=16,709
    B=0

    7.0% in poverty
    0% black

    5
    Non-Poor:
    W=202,549
    B=35,154

    0% in poverty
    15.1% black

    6
    Non-Poor:
    W=188,371
    B=27,043
    Poor:
    W=14,178
    B=9,111

    9.8% in poverty
    15.1% black

    7
    Non-Poor:
    W=202,549
    B=35,154

    0% in poverty
    15.1% black

    8
    Non-Poor:
    W=188,371
    B=27,043
    Poor:
    W=14,178
    B=9,111

    9.8% in poverty
    15.1% black

    9
    Non-Poor:
    W=202,549
    B=35,154

    0% in poverty
    15.1% black

    10
    Non-Poor:
    W=188,371
    B=27,043
    Poor:
    W=14,178
    B=9,111

    9.8% in poverty
    15.1% black

    11
    Non-Poor:
    W=202,549
    B=35,154

    0% in poverty
    15.1% black

    12
    Non-Poor:
    W=188,371
    B=27,043
    Poor:
    W=14,178
    B=9,111

    9.8% in poverty
    15.1% black

    13
    Non-Poor:
    W=119,352
    B=119,352

    0% in poverty
    50.0% black

    14
    Non-Poor:
    W=110,997
    B=89,276
    Poor:
    W=8,355
    B=30,076

    16.1% in poverty
    50.0% black

    15
    Non-Poor:
    W=0
    B=238,703

    0% in poverty
    100% black

    16
    Non-Poor:
    W=0
    B=178,550
    Poor:
    W=0
    B=60,153

    25.2% in poverty
    100% black



  • Topics/Tags: | Cities and Neighborhoods | Poverty, Assets and Safety Net | Washington D.C. Region


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