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HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2000 CENSUS FOR DC

In surprising confirmation of NARPAC's skepticism indicated in the previous section, the 2000 Census indicates that the population of DC dropped by less than 25% of that anticipated over the past several years. No explanation is provided for this sizable discrepancy, and it leaves those who used Chicken Little's approach that "the sky if falling" to gain special tax inducements to lure people into the city were probably unnecessary. Nonetheless, the news is good for DC's future, and this will not be the last time that dubious statistics were used to develop a point. The data presented below deals primarily with regional comparisons.


The upper graph shows that the Washington Metro Area has continued its outstanding growth during the past decade. It is now the sixth largest metro area in the US. The Maryland share of the total population continues to exceed Virginia's, and the District's continues to decline, as shown on the lower graph. DC will sink below 10% of the area's total population, as Maryland exceeds 50%, and Virginia 40%.


The story looks somewhat different in terms of the number of "household" units in each jurisdiction. Suburban household size may well have bottomed out and begun to rise again with the advent of more minorities. In DC, however, household size is continuing to decline (as families are replaced by more singles). It is interesting to note (as NARPAC has before in earlier analyses of population trends) that the number of household units in DC has remained remarkably constant for fifty years, while the number of kids in each has continued to decline.
Composition of the growth has been somewhat different in the two neighboring states. Maryland growth has been greater in Montgomery County than in Prince George's, while "the rest" of its metro counties are now beginning to grow much faster. Fairfax County in Virginia has enjoyed faster growth while "the rest" has grown more slowly, but the combination of Alexandria City and Arlington County has followed a slower, more urban, growth pattern.


The total drop in population within DC over the past decade was substantially less than the demographers had expected (30,000 vs 90,000) and far less than claimed by those pressing for draconian measures to halt the "hemorrhaging of DC's middle class" (which NARPAC has consistently opposed since the Norton-proposed 1997 DC Economic Recovery Act As shown on the bar chart above, the loss has been mainly amongst the non-Hispanic black population, while the major increases have been among the various non-black minorities, primarily Asians and Hispanics. This is resulting in significant realignments of the ward boundaries under redistricting.


There are also some evident, though not completely consistent changes in population by age group. The population of school- and teen-mom-age kids has continued to decline over the past 40 years, as has the key group between 20 and 44. However, the age group between 45 and 60 has done at least a temporary turnaround and is headed up. And finally, the over-60 gang has dropped for the first time but this cannot yet be hailed as a trend.


The changing DC demographics are shown on the chart above, along with a NARPAC projection of the likely balance by 2010. Although it is quite likely that the total DC population will rise as a result of the current residential building boom, the non-Hispanic black population is likely to continue to decline in both absolute numbers and demographic share. It is now a toss-up whether this traditional majority (particularly among voting age residents) will persist through the end of this decade. This is consistent with earlier NARPAC analysis of racial trends which also projected a Y2000 DC population of 575,000, contrary to the far lower estimates of wiser demographers.


These slow but seemingly inexorable demographic shifts will still leave DC (and many other American core cities) with a substantially different demographic composition than its neighboring states, or the US as a whole,. This is primarily due to the relatively small share of Hispanics compared to other parts of the US, while the DC metro area has a relatively large number of Asians and African-Americans.


At the same time, the centroid of the US population (above) is continuing its shift away from its capital city so important in the original creation of DC. It has now jumped across the great Mississippi River South of St. Louis some 800 miles from its location in the1800 census, and is headed strongly Southwest.


This item was archived in July, 2002

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