Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

With a talented new quarterback and a baseball team in the major league playoffs for the first time since 1933, Washington sports are getting a lot of attention recently. In commenting on the state of Washington sports culture, a lot of writers assert that DC is apathetic towards its team because the population is so transient. But how transient is DC?

The Census Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows that in some ways the conventional wisdom is correct, but there’s not necessarily a correlation between a transient population and a lack of local fervor.

According to the Census ACS’s 2011 one-year estimate, 9.1% of DC’s population lived in another state the year before. How does that compare with other sports towns?

DC9.1%
Boston (Suffolk County)5.9%
Philadelphia3.2%
Atlanta4.8%
Chicago3.2%
Baltimore City3.0%
New York City2.8%
... Manhattan6.2%

Of these cities, DC is far and away the highest. However, this is not necessarily an apples-to-apples analysis. If someone moved from Arlington to DC, they would count in this tally, whereas if someone were to move from Buffalo to Broadway, it wouldn’t.

That caveat aside, it’s surprising to see what cities are higher on that list. Boston has the second highest, yet many would call the Hub the most parochial town on the list (or at least a close second to Chicago). Notice also how much higher Manhattan’s numbers are compare with NYC as a whole. Not surprisingly, the most urban part of New York has the most new residents.

Now, consider the same cities but also include residents who moved from a different county within the same state. The numbers (with the obvious exception of DC’s) jump up:

DC9.1%
Boston10.0%
Philadelphia4.6%
Atlanta11.0%
Chicago4.1%
Baltimore6.7%
New York City4.9%
... Manhattan9.1%

This demonstrates that these other cities are often the destination of regional migrants. Sports-wise, these new arrivals probably already rooted for their new home team. But if the criticism of DC is that too many residents have only just arrived to the city itself, it’s got plenty of company.

When you look just at 25-34 year olds—the prime ages of migration—the respective positions are similar, but the numbers are much higher:

DC16.9%
Boston14.0%
Philadelphia8.1%
Atlanta15.2%
Chicago7.5%
Baltimore11.7%
New York City9.2%
... Manhattan14.6%

By middle age, however, DC residents are positively planted. Here are the numbers for 35-44 year olds:

DC5.3%
Boston7.0%
Philadelphia3.1%
Atlanta8.8%
Chicago2.9%
Baltimore6.2%
New York City5.3%
... Manhattan5.1%

So, in general, it is correct to say that DC has a higher transplanted population than other cities. But as the example of Boston demonstrates, there’s not necessarily a correlation between transplants and a lack of a parochial esprit de corps. If in fact DC lacks such cohesion, don’t blame it on the new residents.

Topher Mathews has lived in the DC area since 1999. He created the Georgetown Metropolitan in 2008 to report on news and events for the neighborhood and to advocate for changes that will enhance its urban form and function. A native of Wilton, CT, he lives with his wife and daughter in Georgetown.