Urban Wire Mapping where poor Washingtonians live
Graham MacDonald
Display Date

Although the Washington, DC, region has weathered the Great Recession and its aftermath relatively well, at latest count, the region’s poverty rate stood at 8 percent. A new MetroTrends spotlight focuses on where the region’s poor people live.

Like most big cities, DC has a higher rate of poverty than its surrounding suburbs. But the total number of poor people living in the region’s suburbs (370,000) far exceeds the number living in the District (102,000).

Poor blacks are much more likely to live in DC than either poor whites or poor Latinos. 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 widely scattered across the region as a whole.

Source: Urban Institute analysis of 1990 and 2000 Decennial Census data and 2005-2009 5-Year American Community Survey data

Our map also illustrates changes in where poor Washingtonians lived over the past two decades. Slide the bar to compare the region in 1990, 2000, and the 2005-09 period (the most current data).

Tackling poverty in the Washington region poses multiple challenges for area policymakers. It’s not just a city problem; suburban communities need to deliver support and opportunity too. It’s not just a neighborhood revitalization problem, although overcoming the legacy of segregation in the District’s poorest neighborhoods is critical. It’s not just an English-speaking problem; communities across the region have to reach out to a growing population of immigrants, many of whom speak little English. And it’s not somebody else’s problem; explore our map and you’ll likely see that poor people are among your neighbors. Helping these families overcome poverty is not just a matter of providing aid so they can get by day to day, it’s also about providing opportunities for them to escape poverty in the long run through education, work, and savings.

Research Areas Economic mobility and inequality
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center