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Racial Inequality in DC Widens Amidst Significant Economic Growth Post-Recession


The District’s economy has grown substantially since the Great Recession, but the city’s economic rebound hasn’t lifted more residents above the poverty line, or

boosted the incomes of people of color, new data released today by the US Census Bureau show. These trends point to the need to ensure DC residents can more equally benefit from future income gains.

The city’s median income reached $75,600 in 2015, an increase of $4,000 over the previous year, and $13,000 above the pre-recession 2007 level, after adjusting for inflation. This gain is in line with the significant median income growth nationwide.

Yet more DC residents lived in poverty last year. Overall, 110,500 District residents lived below the federal poverty line (income below $24,000 for a family of four) in 2015, 18,500 more than in 2007. The city’s poverty rate stands at 17 percent.

Poverty remains high among the city’s Black residents – in fact, Black residents are the only racial or ethnic group in DC to see an increase in the poverty rate since 2007. 81,200 Black DC residents – 27 percent of the city’s Black population – lived in poverty in 2015. Nearly three-quarters of all District residents who live in poverty are Black.


The gulf between the median income of white and Black DC residents is widening. In 2015, the median income for white households was $120,000, compared to $41,000 for Black households. While white DC residents have experienced a significant rise in median income post-recession, income for Black residents has been stagnant.

“These data underscore the fact that the city’s new prosperity has left many poor residents and people of color behind,” said Claire Zippel, policy analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. “The city can do more to ensure that all of DC’s residents—including communities of color—share in the city’s recent economic growth.” Policies to expand access to economic opportunity include expanding access to early childhood education, reforming the TANF time limit, and strengthening adult education and job training programs.

Policy analyst Claire Zippel will be available for comment on specifics of the Census numbers at 202-325-8351 or JPEGs of the two charts are available upon request.