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Posts about Demographics


No plan today could ignore rising housing costs. Ten years ago, that wasn't the top issue.

Greater Greater Washington readers are reading DC's Comprehensive Plan, a document that lays out how we build our city, and discussing it as we go. Each week, we'll post a summary of the chapter we most recently read, along with some highlights of what our book club participants think about how the plan could change in the upcoming amendment process.

DC's Comprehensive Plan set out to help the city "grow inclusively." In its second chapter, it outlines how to do that. But, looking at it from 2016, people immediately noticed that it didn't really talk much about the central planning challenge of our era: how to keep housing prices from spiraling out of reach.

Photo by Images Money on Flickr.

Last week, members of the book club read the first half of chapter 2, Framework (up to page 2-21). That section lays out the then-current trends DC: A 50-year population decline turning around, but DC still growing slower than suburban and exurban neighbors; a gradual loss of federal jobs; and shrinking family sizes as people marry and have kids later in life.

It says:

In 1950, Washington had 802,000 residents and was the 9th largest
city in America. By 2000, Washington's population had dropped to 572,000 and it ranked 21st in size among U.S. cities. Between 1970 and 2000 alone, the number of people living in the District of Columbia dropped by almost 25 percent. ...

Unlike the experience of other major cities, the loss of population in Washington was not the result of "white flight." In fact, between 1980 and 2000, African-Americans registered the largest decrease among the city's racial groups, dropping in population by almost 100,000. This drop was partially offset by increases in the city's Hispanic and Asian populations.

While population loss after 1950 was significant, the decline in the number of households has been much less dramatic. The number of households in the District declined by just 2 percent between 1980 and 2000, standing at 248,000 in 2000. Thus, population loss in the late 1900s was less a function of housing being abandoned and more a result of larger households being replaced by smaller households. In fact, the average household in Washington contained 2.16 persons in 2000, down from 2.72 in 1970. Middle-class families left the city in large numbers during this period and the number of school-aged children dropped dramatically.

Looking forward, the city expects household size to continue falling through 2010, and then stabilize. According to the US Census, the percentage of seniors is expected to increase as "baby-boomers" retire, and the percentage of foreign-born residents, particularly those of Hispanic origin, is expected to rise. The District is expected to continue to be a magnet for the region's young professionals and empty nesters. Its ability to attract families with children rests largely on its ability to improve the quality of public education and address basic issues like crime, service provision, and housing affordability.

Corey Holman calculated the numbers and found that household size may or may not have dropped depending on which Census survey you look at, while the percentages of baby boomers and Latinos have NOT risen.

We might be adding more families, and they'll need a place they can afford to live. Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

What about costs?

The 2006 plan forecasts a lot about DC, but not housing costs. It mentions the danger of displacement as housing costs rise, but actually explores that quite scantily. Many of the members of the book club noticed this gap.

Stephanie Thomas said, "An honest assessment of housing costs is key, and I hope that the updated plan will focus more on what DC can do to control costs and contribute towards its stated goal of an inclusive city."

Cheryl Cort added, "Using an approach that looks at low, medium, and high growth projections rather than a 'right number' approach to forecasting population growth would better serve the region's and city's goals to be more sustainable, and better address housing demand." Education, too, didn't come up as strongly as some expected.

Yuki Kato observed that the plan "does mention that income divide as 'the biggest challenge facing the District as it planned for its future' (p. 2-5), but it is not clear in what ways ... this is going to be addressed."

Growth where?

Perhaps one reason rising costs became a big challenge is DC actually built 13% less housing than the plan predicted.

A part of the framework chapter forecasts growth by "planning area," large sections of the city. Here's a graphic of the housing projections:

Graphic by Peter Dovak.

Payton Chung pointed out last year that the growth hasn't actually followed this plan. Much more of it was in "Central Washington," basically downtown and NoMA; Southwest Waterfront; and the ballpark area. And the total fell short of the plan's estimates.

Chung wrote, "The District's other policies to 'conserve single-family residential neighborhoods' are doing too good of a job at keeping new housing out of the neighborhoods that were supposed to accommodate 70% of future housing growth—and keeping the District as a whole well below its housing growth projections."

Yuki Kato worried about how this would affect areas with lower incomes and lower levels of education. She said, "More urgency could have been placed on these projections to seek ways in which the Comp Plan can ease the concentrated burden on some of the areas."

The framework chapter also talks little about transportation, and book club members noticed that too. This is because, Cort said, "In 2006, there was no city transportation plan, and DDOT has only been around for a few years at that point (established by DC Council in 2002)." DC now has created the MoveDC plan, and the current Comprehensive Plan amendment process will incorporate MoveDC (all or in parts—specifics aren't out yet).

This half of the Framework chapter looked at trends and projections. The second half is where the plan starts taking a stand, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. We'll be discussing that next, followed by the Land Use chapter, which is similarly pivotal. If you want to be a part of the book club, fill out the form below!


DC's population is exploding

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).

Median income in the District, 2010-2014.

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.

Migration trends in the District since 2001.

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.

Declines in the District's youth population between 2000 and 2010 have been reversed.

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.


Who are DC's 1,000 "new residents per month?"

You may have heard that DC's population is increasing by approximately 1,000 per month. That's a true popular statistic. But it's not really true to say that 1,000 people are moving into DC each month. What is really driving this number?

Not officially one of the new residents. Photo by Smithsonian's National Zoo on Flickr.

In short: people being born and dying, and large numbers of people moving in and out of DC. On balance, if you add up all of these numbers, you get about 1,000 a month.

Births: Some of DC's new residents are babies. 9,593 humans were born in DC from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015, according to the US Census' 2015 "Vintage Population Estimates," or about 800 a month.

Deaths: Meanwhile, some people die. In that same time span, it was 5,218, or about 435 a month. Together, that makes the net "natural population change" 365 people a month.

Domestic migration: Other people move into or out of DC. The Census also estimates that DC had a net domestic migration of 311 people a month. In other words, the number of people who moved to DC from other parts of the US was 311 people more than the number who moved the other way.

International migration: Finally, people move to and from DC from other countries as well. There was a net of 379 such people a month from 2014-2015. As you can see from the graph below, that number has stayed more consistent than the net domestic migration:

Data from US Census Vintage 2015 Population Estimates. Numbers do not include pandas.
* Residual is where the estimates for individual components don't quite add up to the total population change.

This graph shows, with some variation, that roughly a third of the population change is natural, a third domestic migration, and a third international. However, it'd be very inaccurate to say the three are about equal.

That's because the net domestic migration number, in particular, conceals a huge amount of "churn." Remember how, above, we said that 800 babies are born a month and 435 people die? Since those are almost entirely not the same people, there aren't 365 people coming into the world a month; instead, nearly 1,235 people total either enter or leave this life.

The corresponding number of people who moved between DC and another part of the US was between 7,000 and 8,000 a month in either direction, based on data from the Internal Revenue Service and the Census's American Community Survey.

Purple bars from US Census Vintage 2015 Population Estimates. Red and green bars are very rough estimates extrapolated from IRS and American Community Survey data.

This graph shows the rough magnitude of the churn in each category. The domestic migration comes out to a net of about 400 a month over the last five years, but that's two large numbers balancing out to one small one. The size of those components is partly why the domestic number fluctuates more from year to year.

It also makes it hard to drill down. We'd love to know how many of the 8,000 movers per month are going to or from the immediate metro area versus elsewhere in the US. Unfortunately, according to Jeannette Chapman of George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis (who provided the data for this post), the available public data sources have limitations.

The Census' American Community Survey uses a small sample that's only good enough to conclude that net domestic migration was somewhere between -13,000 and +7,500 in 2014.1 The IRS has data on people who filed taxes in one jurisdiction and then changed to another, but not everyone can be matched over two years and not everyone files taxes.2 Both of these data sources can tell us a lot about movers, but doesn't completely nail down "the" absolute number.

But the overall net population change numbers are more solid, and in the end, some more people are born than die, and more people come into DC from around the nation and the world than leave.

The people moving domestically and internationally, in general, need housing units; the people born don't right away, but most of their families eventually need larger housing spaces. DC has added approximately 10,000 new jobs per year over the last five years, and many of those job holders will live in the city.

How much housing DC is adding, and how much it needs to build to meet the need, will be the subject of a future post.

1 If you estimate the domestic migration using the ACS and IRS data, as Chapman did, they actually show a net negative domestic migration—more people moving out of DC than in. But, Chapman said, that likely doesn't mean more people actually moved out of DC; the Census' Population Estimates show an increase, and they incorporate more data sets and sophisticated modeling to come to these numbers.

2 The data set only covers people who file taxes and do so by the April 15 deadline. That excludes
many lower-income people, higher-income people, and misses some, like young people, who may still be using another address like their parents'. New filers (like recently-married or first-time jobholders) also don't have two years of history to compare. In 2013, about 15% of people who filed federal taxes (either as the filer or a dependent) couldn't be matched to 2012.


Had Maryland annexed Virginia, here's what demographics would look like

Had an 1861 proposal come to fruition, much of Virginia would have become Maryland, much of Maryland would have become Delaware, and West Virginia would have simply remained Virginia. Here's what their demographics would look like today if all that had happened, and a look at what that might have meant for the 2012 presidential election.

First, a look at these states' boundaries today:

Images by the author.

This includes the population totals and some demographic information from the 2010 Census, as well as the electoral votes allocated based on that census.

What's below shows the "new" states, along with the current state boundaries.

With a population of over 11 million, New Maryland would be the 8th most populous state in the 2010 Census. Despite having a couple of hundred thousand less people than #7 Ohio, it would have the same 18 electoral votes as the Buckeye State. New Delaware's extra population would add an electoral vote to what Delaware has, and New Virginia would have two more electoral votes than West Virginia.

Even if the 23rd Amendment didn't limit DC (and presumably New DC!) to no more electors than the least population state, the almost-million residents in New DC would not be enough to get it an additional elector.

When it comes to race, Delaware and New Delaware (as well as West Virginia and New Virginia) have very similar compositions, and New Maryland's numbers are similar to Maryland. Clearly, Virginia's eastern population is racially similar to Maryland. With the addition of Arlington and Alexandria, New DC's racial population percentages are almost exactly swapped. (Although not shown here, New DC's Hispanic population would be double that of DC.)

Here's how I made the new map

I used current county/city jurisdictional boundaries when creating the new states. While these boundaries may be different from those in 1861, the general analysis presented here would be relatively unaffected. (The most noticeable boundary difference would be modern Alexandria, which has expanded beyond the original DC "diamond.")

The post that inspired mine states that the Blue Ridge Mountains would be the boundary between New Virginia and New Maryland. I georeferenced the 1861 map onto a current and geographically accurate map to determine which current jurisdictions would fall into each state.

Alexandria and Arlington would return (or "be retro-retroceded"??) to New DC. New Delaware would inherit all of the Delmarva Peninsula. And, the three counties in the panhandle of Maryland would move to New Virginia.

I re-calculated the electoral votes for each "new" state based on the populations shown in the second image (and assuming there are only 49 states since West Virginia is no more). Overall, the proposed multi-state area would lose two electoral votes, as there is one fewer state in the calculation.

2012 election would have been different, but not that different

I also decided to take a look at how the reconfiguration of the region may have impacted a recent election. The image below shows the 2012 election results (by county/city), along with the aggregated totals (and electoral votes) of the new states.

In the actual election, Obama took 29 electoral votes in the region and Romney took West Virginia's five votes. Under the new configuration, Obama would have received 25 electoral votes while Romney would have garnered New Virginia's 7 votes.

This very brief analysis doesn't show any earth-shattering differences between the current state configuration and the proposed one. It doesn't touch on economic issues like Gross State Product, employment, personal net worth, salaries, etc. Redrawing state boundaries would not have changed the result of the 2012 election, but can you think of an election where it might have made a difference?

Another point of interest: An overwhelming majority of Metro stations would be in New DC, so would New DC even bother trying to participate a multi-jurisdictional hydrid commuter-subway system like Metro, or would it have just decided to create a District-only system and had New Maryland feed commuters into the Metro via a New Maryland MARC?

What else do you think could be different, for better or worse, if these were our state borders?


Can you name this neighborhood? If so, come to our party! (If not, come to our party too!)

Millennials are flocking to this neighborhood outside DC, where the percentage of adults 20-34 has more than doubled since 1980 to 71%, making it one of the region's youngest. What is it?

Photo by Martin Pettitt on Flickr. (Not in the neighborhood in the question.)

Repeat: it's not in the District. Can you guess? Post your answer in the comments.

This is an example of a question for the trivia contest at our 8th birthday party, Tuesday, March 8 at Vendetta, 1212 H Street NE in DC.

Most of the party will be a fun chance to mingle with your fellow urbanists, readers, commenters, contributors, journalists, government officials, and many more. Around 7:45, we'll have a short trivia game for those who want to play (and those who don't can keep socializing on the other side of the bar!). Participants can win prizes from Capital Bikeshare/goDCgo and Island Press, and we ask for a $5 donation to play.

If you can come to the party, please let us know here since there's a limit on how many people can fit at Vendetta.

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Meanwhile, I've hidden comments for this post so you can post your guesses there and not see spoilers. Everyone who guesses correctly gets a free ticket to the party! (And since it's a free party, so does everyone else, too!) But either way, you still need to RSVP. See you there!


Millennials still drive! ... less than other people do

Did you know that:
• Most millennials don't use Uber?
• Most millennials don't shop at Wegman's?
• Most millennials don't live in Austin?
• Most millennials in the Washington region drive to work alone?
• Most people may be misled by recent headlines about millennials?

Image from the study.

Last week, the American University Kogod School of Business released a new Millennials Index based on an online-only survey of 300 people ages 20-34. Amid a lot of interesting findings, the report contained the above graph of transportation mode choices, along with this provocative statement:

While Millennials are often cited as heavy users of alternative transit options, like bike shares and car shares, the reality from our study is that 60% of greater Washington area Millennials are driving alone to work often or always. That's three times the number who are using the Metro to commute.
While this data is interesting and useful, the reality is that, first, this is not a surprise, and second, this statement is misleadingly worded.

Yes, more people drive alone than take Metro. But, as Faiz Siddiqui wrote in the Washington Post,

Some needed context for the study: The proportion of millennial drivers in the transit-dense District pales in comparison to the nationwide figure. Census figures showed 76.4 percent of American workers commuted by driving in 2013. In the D.C. region, 75.7 percent of workers commuted by driving.

So, millennials drive. But they still drive at a lower rate than the overall population.

Unfortunately, the Post put a headline on Siddiqui's article that glossed over this important point: "For millennials, commuting around D.C. means choosing 'the lesser of their evils'—and that's driving."

Not "most millennials" or "many but fewer than the national average" (yes, that's hard to fit in a headline). The above statement in the millennial report and several other news stories on the same topic (such as ones in the Washington Business Journal and WTOP) also reinforced one or more common fallacies I've noticed in transportation discussions with statistics.

The "most millennials don't live in Austin" fallacy: As Siddiqui noted, while most millennials drive, many fewer do than other groups. A Nielsen study found high concentrations of millennials in certain areas (including Washington as #6). But most millennials still don't live in Austin, or Salt Lake City, or DC, just because there are so many other places in the US. They do, however, live there at higher rates than others.

This study polled millennials in the entire Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes part of West Virginia. Metro doesn't extend there, and even the closer-in-counties like Montgomery, Prince George's, and Fairfax are huge, including land far from most transit. As Arlington Transportation Partners notes, a ULI study of millennials found that inside the Beltway, only 26% commuted by car.

The "most millennials don't use Uber" fallacy: Just because something isn't the majority doesn't mean it's not growing. As Ben Freed pointed out in Washingtonian, "New transportation infrastructure and technologies are redrawing our mental maps of the region, but not overnight." Not many people used Capital Bikeshare in the survey, but it's a lot more than five years ago! Most millennials also still don't use Uber, but nobody questions that it's a fast-growing trend.

The "most millennials don't shop at Wegman's" fallacy: Just because something isn't the majority doesn't mean people don't want it. A lot of people would love to shop at a Wegman's: it's hugely popular. But there aren't many of them, so most people don't shop there. We've spent a century building car infrastructure to every single house, but not transit to even every town, let alone every neighborhood. In many parts of the region, transit is just not an available option. This doesn't make it undesired, just unavailable.

I'd also call this one the "Kotkin fallacy" after writer Joel Kotkin, who regularly argues that people prefer suburbs over walkable urban areas because most people live in them. That ignores the fact that there are few walkable urban neighborhoods compared to the many, many suburban ones (and the walkable urban ones are far more expensive).

Meanwhile, many millennials (maybe not all) said that housing prices were a top concern. They called housing prices "insane," "atrocious" and "unaffordable," and put housing cost as the second-highest concern, after finding a job.

What fallacies do you see in news coverage of studies like this? What other analogies can you think of?


Watch the world's urban population explode on one map

The number of urban areas in the world with a population over one million has exploded since 1950. This map shows just how extreme that explosion has been.

Image from KPMG.

On the map, from KPMG Demographics, you can see how in 1950 the world's scant million-plus cities were heavily concentrated in western Europe, the northeastern United States, and Japan. Since then, not many new ones have popped up in those places, but the rest of the world has caught up big time.

By the 1980s, China, India, and southeast Asia are challenging the west's dominance. By the turn of the millenium, the middle east and central Africa join the party. South America keeps up a slower but steady pace the whole time.

What jumps out to you?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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