Incomes Are Growing in the District, But Not For Everyone

The Census Bureau announced this week that median household income in the District rose from $56,400 in 2007 to $57,900 in 2008.  Although this increase was not “statistically significant”, it is good news that the national recession hadn’t hit the city that hard ‘ at least through 2008.  There is one group in DC that suffered in 2008, though.  Households led by someone without a high school degree saw their incomes drop by $4,000 ‘  from just $23,000 to $19,000 ‘  a sign that economic downturns often hit the most vulnerable the hardest.  And 2009 is likely to offer a less rosy story for lots of DC residents, as unemployment has shot up to more than 10 percent.

The one-year change in incomes was mostly insignificant however; the new data reveal important trends in income gains and losses since the start of the decade.

Since 2000, median household income District-wide rose an impressive $7,000 ‘ from $51,000 to $58,000.  DC’s median income is higher than in the U.S. as a whole and in most states.    But the growth hasn’t been shared by all.  As is often the case in the District, very different stories emerge when we use the lenses of race, geography, and education.

  • White household income (non-Hispanic) jumped 20 percent from m 2000-2008, after adjusting for inflation, up to $107,600.  Black residents, by contrast, saw their median income rise just two percent during the same time period, up to $39,200 in 2008, a change which was not statistically significant.  Hispanic household income fell from $47,000 in 2000 to $44,000 for 2008, also a change that was not statistically significant.
  • Looking through the education lens, only those residents at the most advanced levels ‘  those with a graduate or professional degree ‘ saw a statistically significant incomes gain from 2005-2008.
  • Residents living in Census-defined areas that largely encompass Wards 2 and 3 enjoyed income gains of $15,000 -$20,000 since 2005.  Meanwhile, median income fell in the area that covers Ward 4, and incomes in most of Wards 5 through 8 showed no statistically significant change from 2005-2008.

This DCFPI analysis of Census Bureau data shows that many groups in the District are not sharing the income gains made over the last decade. (The full report can be found here)