DC Gentrification by the Numbers

September 14, 2015

Gentrification is a much discussed topic in DC, along with many other American cities. The term describes a shift from a poorer neighborhood often populated with minority families to a wealthier neighborhood often populated with white singles and couples. Many District residents see the effects around them daily, passing by the luxury shops at CityCenter or a construction site for a new high-end apartment building.

I wanted to look at gentrification by the numbers over the past decade to better understand what these changes look like and where they are occurring. To do so I looked at the key gentrification metrics - changes in income, proportion of African Americans and proportion of children - for neighborhood clusters that were below median income in 2000. The maps show the change in each metric from 2000 to 2010 for the selected neighborhoods. Neighborhoods above median income are grayed out in the below maps. A darker green indicates greater gentrification-like change.

Change in Income (%), 1999-2008-12

Darker green indicates greater increase. Click for more detail.

Source: American Community Survey, courtesy Neighborhood Info DC

Changes in median income vary greatly across neighborhoods. The Near Southeast/Navy Yard area experienced an astounding 147% growth from 1999-2008/2012. Median income grew from just under $38,000 to over $93,000. Similarly in Chinatown/Mt. Vernon, median income grew nearly 138%. These increases speak to a radical shift, particularly because average neighborhood change was only 17%. While we often think of DC as a whole as being on the upswing, this isn't true for all parts of the city. The lightest green in the map shows neighborhoods where median income actually declined over the period, most notably in the Mayfair/Hillbrook area where median income fell by 22%.

Change in Proportion of African Americans (%), 2000-2010

Darker green indicates greater decrease. Click for more detail.

Source: Census, courtesy Neighborhood Info DC

It's been widely reported that the District is no longer the "Chocolate City." No neighborhood cluster saw an increase in African Americans over the decade. This is unsurprising east of the Anacostia where neighborhoods are upward of 97% African American, and largerly stayed at that level. West of the Anacostia was a different story, with neighborhoods like Near Southest/Navy Yard experiencing a 48% decrease in proportion of African Americans. If the top two maps look nearly identical that's because the correlation between the two is -.92, which is to say median income growth has a strong and negative relationship with the proportion of African Americans for the neighborhoods shown. Since population grew in all neighborhoods west of the Anacostia, a decrease in the proportion of African Americans does not mean that many fewer African Americans but does speak to the changing racial landscape.

Change in Proportion of Populaton under 18 (%), 2000-2010

Darker green indicates greater decrease. Click for more detail.

Source: Census, courtesy Neighborhood Info DC

The proportion of children decreased across all neighborhoods over the past decade, varying from a 2% drop in the Woodland/Fort Stanton area to a 51% decrease in Near Southeast/Navy Yard. The trends shown in the proportion of children are consistent with decrease in the proportion of African Americans and the increase in median income, suggesting a high degree of interconnectedness between the three and dramatic changes in the demographics of these neighborhoods.

DC has certainly changed over the past decade, and while the effects of gentrification are hotly debated it's clear by the numbers that many neighborhoods are changing rapidly. Where were these changes most seen in the past decade?

While the most recent of this data stopped in 2012, the District has certainly continued to change. The trending looks the same and with news of swift home price increases in Anacostia, may be spreading.

Technical notes: Graphics and rankings are based on the 2000 and 2010 Census as well as the 1999 and 2008-2012 American Community Survey. Data was extracted from Neighborhood Info DC., which kindly calculated data at DC neighborhood cluster levels. Neighborhood clusters are defined by the DC Office of Planning for budgeting, planning, service delivery, and analysis purposes. You can find complete code for this post on my github page.