Urban Wire If we had a more equitable DC…
Leah Hendey
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The disparities in the District of Columbia are sobering.

At a conference hosted by the City First Foundation earlier this month, I highlighted data demonstrating that Wards 7 and 8, east of the Anacostia River, are lagging behind in development, business growth, income, and high school graduation rates. Ed Lazere from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute shared that one in four children east of the Anacostia lives in extreme poverty. Despite a 54 percent citywide increase in average family income since 1980 (adjusted for inflation), family incomes in Ward 7 have remained stagnant. In Ward 8, they are below 1980 levels. 

But the data don’t tell the story of the potential that exists in the residents east of the river. There are organizations like THEARC in Congress Heights and Anacostia Economic Development Corporation; neighborhood leaders and community builders; and the churches, businesses, and nonprofits that serve the community. This potential is critical to the concept of equity. To quote Angela Glover Blackwell and PolicyLink’s Equity Manifesto, equity is “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.”

What would it mean if the District of Columbia was more equitable and the residents east of the Anacostia River could participate, prosper, and reach their full potential in DC?

If we had a more equitable DC and the number of adults with high school diplomas matched the citywide rate of 88 percent, there would be 5,000 more people with diplomas in Wards 7 and 8. It would mean 760 more people with diplomas in the Deanwood area and 1,240 more people in Congress Heights.

If we had a more equitable DC and the rate of homeownership matched the citywide rate of 42 percent, there would be 5,400 new homeowners in Ward 8 and 740 new homeowners in the Sheridan, Barry Farm, and Buena Vista areas.

If we had a more equitable DC and the employment rate matched the city rate of 89 percent, there would be 2,900 more people with jobs in Ward 7 and almost 4,000 more people with jobs in Ward 8. 

An inclusive DC doesn’t just benefit the residents east of the river or others in the District who struggle to access quality education, affordable housing, and living wages. According to the National Equity Atlas, the District’s gross domestic product would have been almost $66 billion larger in 2012 if there were no racial gaps in income and employment. That’s an economy that would have been 60 percent bigger. With racial equity in income and employment, in a District of Columbia where all residents could participate, prosper, and reach their full potential, there would be more people with income to spend and stimulate the economy for the benefit of not only neighborhoods east of the Anacostia, but also the city and Washington region as a whole.

We also have a summary table with these equity measures for all wards and neighborhoods in the city, as well as a downloadable spreadsheet for visualizations and analysis.


More People with HS Diploma

More  Homeowners

More People with Jobs

Ward 7




Ward 8




Deanwood, Burrville, Grant Park, Lincoln Heights, Fairmont Heights




Sheridan, Barry Farm, Buena Vista




Congress Heights, Bellevue, Washington Highlands





Notes: Data are presented for neighborhood clusters. Numbers for the Congress Heights area are much larger because it is twice the size of other neighborhoods East of the River.

Source: American Community Survey 2008-2012 data tabulated by NeighborhoodInfo DC.


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The Urban Institute podcast, Evidence in Action, inspires changemakers to lead with evidence and act with equity. Cohosted by Urban President Sarah Rosen Wartell and Executive Vice President Kimberlyn Leary, every episode features in-depth discussions with experts and leaders on topics ranging from how to advance equity, to designing innovative solutions that achieve community impact, to what it means to practice evidence-based leadership.


Research Areas Neighborhoods, cities, and metros Greater DC
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center
Cities Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV