DC’s population is growing, and it’s likely to surpass the all-time high in the next decade. It’s also getting whiter overall, and seeing more international immigrants and childbirths. These are some of the key takeaways from a population trends study that the Office of Planning published in April.
DC’s population growth is forecasted to continue in the decades to come. All images from the Office of Planning.
DC will likely surpass its all-time high population within the next decade
Between 2000 and 2015, the District’s population grew by approximately 100,000 people. This meant a reversal of a downward trend in population, which had been happening since the 1950s, when the city’s population peaked at around 800,000.
There aren’t any signs that population growth will slow down. In fact, the study projects the District’s population will exceed the old high of 800,000 within the next ten years.
DC will continue to become whiter and more affluent
Since bottoming out in the 1980s, the District’s white population has grown steadily, with a sharp increase around the turn of the century. Conversely, the rate of the black population growth has steadily declined since its peak in the 1970s.
As DC’s white population continues to increase, wealth and affluence will likely increase as a corollary. Currently, pockets of wealth and affluence are unevenly concentrated in Wards 1, 2, and 3. By contrast, Wards 7 and 8 contain a disproportionate amount of poverty when compared to the other wards.
As can be seen in the images above, the educated and affluent are primarily white and heavily concentrated in northwest and central DC (Wards 1, 2, 3, and 6).
International immigration and child births fuel population growth
Between 2000 and 2007, more people migrated out of the District than migrated in. Since 2007, though, the migrant population in the District has consistently remained a net positive - more people are migrating into the District than out of it.
It is worth noting that even before 2007, the influx of international migrants remained consistently positive despite the overall trend of people moving out of the District.
When taken into consideration relative to the overall migration trends of the 2000s, international immigration has accounted for a significant portion of the population increase in the city.
As more immigrants move into the District and start or expand their families, they account for an increased proportion of the population growth in the city.
The number of school-aged children will boom in the next 10 years
Between 2000 and 2010, a specific subgroup - youths aged 5-10 years old - saw a steep drop off in population, accounting for 36% of the overall youth population loss. But this same group saw a 16% population increase between 2010 and 2014.
The attraction and retention of households with children is projected to grow in the years to come, which means the population of school-aged children will likely continue to increase.
What are the policy implications?
As the District looks to the future, population growth and demographic projections clearly highlight opportunities for more sustainable growth.
Wealth and poverty are distributed unevenly in distinct sections of the city, and policy decisions have the potential to affect a shift in this reality as the District prepares for future population expansion.
With a projected increase in school-aged youth and retention of families, education and housing policy specifically could present a significant opportunity for reversing the trends towards an increased opportunity gap.