The racial integration of the Washington DC metro area has many illuminating geographic patterns. This essay will concentrate on African-Americans and Non-Hispanic Whites. That’s not to say that there are not significant and interesting patterns for the ever increasing Latino and Asian communities, however, the long historical relationship between Washington DC and it’s Black citizens provides an interesting glimpse into today’s racial patterning in upscale neighborhoods. Please note that although the Census Bureau now combines the Baltimore metro area with the greater Washington Area, all of the statistics in this article are for the DC Metropolitan Statistical Area without the complications of Baltimore’s unique racial patterning.
African-Americans: Success, but at a Lagging Rate
An analysis of the number of households earning over $200,000 between the 2000 Census and the 2006-8 American Community Survey comes with two large caveats. The first is that the numbers are not inflation adjusted and that the approximate 25% inflation rate between 2000 and 2008 is a strong contributory factor in the large increase in the over $200,000 income category. Secondly, it must be remembered that the American Community Survey’s data was collected at the height of the boom (2006-8), literally at the cusp of the Bush Recession. There is evidence that the real estate bust has disproportionately wreaked havoc on Black neighborhoods, both poor and newly wealthy.
One of the reasons why nouveau riche Black neighborhoods have high foreclosure rates compared to White and Asian-American neighborhoods is the lack of a financial cushion. In the May 2010, a Research and Policy Brief of Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy found that high income Whites have a median wealth of $240,000 (excluding real estate) compared to a meager $18,000 for high income Blacks, (“The Racial Wealth Gap Increases Fourfold” by Shapiro, Meschede, and Sullivan). Having built up significant wealth, White families are much better able to withstand a bad economy than Black families. Even more startling is that the study found that the overall wealth gap between Blacks and Whites has quadrupled over the last 23 years.
In spite of the caveats, the increase in the number of households earning over $200,000 in the United States between 2000 and 2008 is indeed stunning at 88.2%. Furthermore, the differences between the racial categories are vast. African-Americans increased their number of high income households by 48.9%, whereas Asian-Americans increased their representation by a stunning 181.%%. Although there are 1/3 as many Asian-Americans households as African-American households, the Community Survey found more than twice as many Asian households earning over $200,000.
Table 1: Households Earning Over $200,000, by Race
|Number of Households with Income over $200,000: ACS 2006-2008||Number of Households with Income over $200,000: Census 2000||% Increase|
Washington DC: An Overview
The American Community Survey (2006-8) counted 1,961,388 households in the Washington Metro area. The segregation of the Black and Non-Hispanic White communities has always been historically notable and the newest data illustrates that this pattern is a continuing problem. Prince Georges County, long a haven for the aspiring Black middle class is becoming ever more African-American. Between 2000 and 2008, the percentage of African-Americans in PG has increased from 62.2% of the total households to 66.2%.
In fact, all of the outer counties in the DC area have seen significant increases in all minority groups with the exception of the core communities of the District, Arlington, and Alexandria. The District is certainly headed towards losing it’s Black majority. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of Black households has declined from 55.7% of all households to 51.0%. There were also declines in Alexandria (19.4% to 18.5%) and Arlington (8.6% to 8.2%).
At the same time, the Non-Hispanic White households have decreased throughout the metro area (60.3% to 56.7% of all households) with the exception of the core communities. The district’s White household count increased from 33.6% in the 2000 Census to 37.1% in 2008. Alexandria and Arlington also saw significant increases in the their Non-Hispanic White populations. The root of these changes can generally come under the aegis of gentrification and the expansion of the rent gap in those communities. The term “rent gap” refers to the difference between the value of the existing real estate and what it might go for if developed to it’s “highest use”. The rent gap is particularly noticeable in Alexandria and Arlington because of their prime geographic locations close to the District and their relatively high socio-economic status. In other words, they are well located and highly desirable, hence extremely attractive to higher income households. This combination forces lower-income people, often minorities, out and replaces them with professionals that can be of any race.
Mean household income change in Alexandria and Arlington bare out my thoughts on racial change. Non-Hispanic Whites saw their median household income leap by +49.7% in Alexandria to $102,857 and by +50.1% in Arlington to$110,421 in the 2006-8 ACS. During the same time African-American households increased by +27.9% to $48,707 in Alexandria and by +38.9% to $55,832 in Arlington. The income gap between Black in White is a startling 2:1 gap.
Table 2: Race in the Washington DC Metro Area
|2008 Black||2008 Asian||2008 Latino||2008 Non-Hispanic White|
|Metro Area Total||26.0%||7.3%||8.5%||56.7%|
|68 Higley 1000 Neigh.||2.0%||6.5%||2.3%||87.7%|
|District of Columbia||51.0%||3.5%||7.0%||37.1%|
The Highest Income Neighborhoods of the Washington Metro Area
The 68 Higley 1000 neighborhoods are overwhelmingly Non-Hispanic White with strong Asian-American representation. Although Non-Hispanic Whites made-up 60.3% of the Metro area’s households, they made up 87.7% of the Higley 1000 households. The African-American household representation in the wealthiest precincts of metro Washington is negligible at 1.99%.
The highest income neighborhoods are heavily concentrated geographically. Of the 68 Higley 1000 neighborhoods in DC, all but 4 neighborhoods march up both shores of the Potomac River. There are 9 Higley 1000 neighborhoods in the District, 31 in Montgomery County, and 28 in Virginia. All of the Virginian Higley 1000 neighborhoods are found in Fairfax County (26) and Arlington (2).
Map of the Higley 1000 District of Columbia Neighborhoods
View District of Columbia in a larger map
Map of the Higley 1000 Montgomery County Neighborhoods
View Chevy Chase-Bethesda-Potomac in a larger map
Map of the Higley 1000 Arlington-Fairfax County Neighborhoods
View Fairfax County- Potomac River in a larger map
Table 3: The Ten Wealthiest Neighborhoods in Metro Washington
|Rank||Neighborhood||Mean Household Income: 2000||Locater|
|1||Potomac Manors-Potomac Falls||$377,621||Potomac|
|3||Potomac Hunt Acres-Lake Potomac||$342,637||Travilah|
|10||Chevy Chase Village||$280,781||Chevy Chase|
The only four Higley 1000 neighborhoods that are not along the Potomac corridor are all located in Virginia: Old Town in Alexandria, Yacht Haven in Mount Vernon (both found further down the Potomac) as well as two exurban neighborhoods in southern Fairfax: Fountainhead and Ardmore-Brimstone. As any DC resident might expect, McLean neighborhoods dominate the Virginia side of the river and Chevy Chase, Bethesda, and Potomac neighborhoods dominate the Maryland side.
Wealthy African-American Households in Washington D.C.
Although affluent African-American households make-up a minuscule 2% of the Higley 1000 neighborhoods in the Washington metro area, they are quite prominent in other areas that range from lovely gracious older neighborhoods in the District to the nouveau riche McMansions of Woodmore, Maryland. In fact, the American Community Survey shows that the number of Black households with incomes of over $200,000 in the Washington area are second only to New York City’s metro area and of course, the overall population of the New York’s metro area is three times larger than Washington.
Table 4: African-American Households with Incomes over $200,000 by Metro Area and Central City (ACS 2006-8)
|Rank||Metro Areas||African-American Households with over $200,000 Income||In Central City|
|1||New York City||25,889||10,039|
Yet another way to breakdown Black affluence is to look at the counties in United States with the highest number of households with incomes over $200,000 and the undisputed leader is Prince Georges County. PG handily beats outs #2 Los Angeles County— a remarkable fact considering LA County has 10 times as many people!
Table 5: The Thirty-Three Counties in the United States with the Largest Number of Households earning over $200,000
|Rank||County||ST||African-American Households Over $200,000 Income|
There are three geographic clusters of Black affluence in the Washington metro area. Two are located in Prince Georges County: the Fort Washington area and a cluster of neighborhoods that are located in the Lake Arbor-Woodmore-Bowie area. The most affluent string of neighborhoods with a strong African-American presence is found just to the east of Rock Creek Park in the District of Columbia.
The three clusters together have 20 neighborhoods and are approximately 2/3 African-American and 1/3 Non-Hispanic White. Asians and Hispanics are statistically insignificant in all three clusters. When the twenty neighborhoods are aggregated, the 2000 Census shows that the White population has a small mean household income advantage ($123,870 for Whites vs. $114,080 for Blacks). The highest income neighborhood for African-Americans in the entire metro area is found in Colonial Village ($196,587), a gracious and charming neighborhood featuring lovely commodious homes that were generally built from the 1920s into the 1950s.
Table 6: Three Clusters of African-American Wealth in the Washington Metro Area
|Neighborhood||Percent Black||Mean Household Income||Community|
|1||Colonial Village||62.3%||166,504||Washington DC|
|2||N Portal Ests-Rock Creek Gardens||65.2%||144,867||Washington DC|
|4||Shepherd Park||73.5%||113,019||Washington DC|
|6||Mount Pleasant Southwest||70.0%||108,085||Washington DC|
|8||The Country Club at Woodmore||73.4%||134,615||Woodmore|
|9||Tall Oaks Crossing||71.5%||117,283||Woodmore-Bowie|
|12||Oak Creek-Collington Station||89.7%||109,824||Greater Marlboro-Bowie|
|13||Newbridge CC-Woodview Village||90.5%||104,164||Lake Arbor|
|21||Perrywood-Brock Hall Manor||86.8%||101,928||Greater Marlboro|
|15||Tantallon Country Club||52.7%||157,632||Fort Washington|
|16||Indian Queen Estates||70.0%||114,982||Fort Washington|
|18||Broadwater Estates-Tantallon North||66.6%||104,027||Fort Washington|
|19||Ft Washington-Piscataway Estates||68.5%||102,770||Fort Washington|
|20||Tantallon Hills||46.8%||102,101||Fort Washington|
Map of the Affluent African-American Neighborhoods in the District of Columbia
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Map of the Affluent African-American Neighborhoods in the Fort Washington Area
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Map of the Affluent African-American Neighborhoods in the Lake Arbor-Woodmore-Bowie area
View Woodmore-Bowie-Lake Arbor in a larger map