Oh, hi readers.
So, the Census released its new state population estimates! Exciting times!
We should remember that Census tends to undercount in urban areas. Early last year, the Bureau announced that it had rather significantly underestimated the population of the District, and it raised the estimated population by about 30,000 people. Shortly thereafter, Census determined that between 2005 and 2006, D.C. lost about 1,000 people. This year, then, they revised the 2006 estimate up by 4,000 people (such that D.C. gained 3,000 rather than lost 1,000).
And now, they estimate that our fair capital has tacked on another 3,000 people. Given the upward revision to last year’s number and this year’s estimated increase, we can boast of a District 588,000 strong, give or take a few. In short, since the 2000 Census we have graciously incorporated at least 16,000 new residents into our humble 66 square miles. Not bad, eh?
Interestingly to me, the few newspaper stories that wrote up the data drop focused on a component of net population growth–domestic migration. Approximately 3,000 Washingtonians left the District for another US state between 2006 and 2007, according to Census. While that amount was more than compensated for by international in-migration and natural increase, news organizations nonetheless sounded the alarm.
What’s truly interesting about that statistic is what it doesn’t include–migration rates by race or by ward. Looking at previous data releases, we see that population has been growing in NW Washington for probably a decade now, and this probably includes net gains in domestic migrants. This growth has been partially or wholly balanced by shrinking populations in the eastern half of the city, primarily due to the departure of lower and middle income black families to the Maryland suburbs. I have been expecting the eastern declines to slow, however, for two main reasons. First, the trendline of black population declines in D.C., which mirrors the white population with about a 20 year lag, has been leveling off. Second, development has been rapidly expanding out of NW Washington and into the eastern portions of the city. As the area of the city experiencing net outflows decreases, I should think that net outflows would also decrease (unless expansion of the developing area accelerated lower and middle income outflows, which it might).
Main thing to take away from this: the District of Columbia is generally adding people every year now, and since we’re not growing in size, those additions mean higher densities. This is a remarkable thing and a fantastic thing, economically, environmentally, and civically speaking. Obviously, policy challenges exist, but we shouldn’t ever hesitate to call this growth to the attention of urban skeptics.