Greater Greater Washington

Posts about East-west Divide


Three graphs show where the educated, affluent, and young are moving in the DC region

UVA demographic researchers made some fascinating graphs of demographic divides in the Washington area which show what we know is happening: more affluent and educated people are moving farther east in the region, and young people are living near the center more than ever.

Images from UVA StatCh@t.

The researchers, from the University of Virginia Cooper Center's Demographics Research Group, looked at the populations within 5, 10, 15, and 20 miles of the White House and how they compare on the eastern half and western half of our region.

The percentage of people with graduate and professional degrees used to drop very sharply between west and east (the white line). It has increased all across the region, but most of all in the center (mostly DC and Arlington). And the drop-off has become far less steep, reflecting how many highly-educated people have been moving into neighborhoods on the east side of DC and places like Silver Spring.

The same applies for income. Notice how the lowest point for both advanced degrees and income are not at the places farthest from the core in the east, but places about 5-15 milesmostly Prince George's County on either side of the Beltway, where the older communities are. More educated and affluent people have leapfrogged that area to more exurban places.

There's a little bit of that effect on the west side, but far less; there, the people with the most education and means generally want to live closer to the center, and that trend is growing stronger.

Young people don't seem to care that much about the east-west divideor many simply can't afford to live in the more expensive west. People in their 20s always were most concentrated in the core, but that trend has also strengthened a lot, with places more than about 4 miles from the center having a smaller share of 20-somethings in 2012 than in 1990.

Meanwhile, the east-west imbalance has disappeared, or even slightly reversed itself, as younger people moved into more affordable neighborhoods east of 16th Street in DC.


Mapping underwater mortgages shows shocking divide

The Washington Post created this astounding map of the places where the greatest percentage of mortgages are "underwater," or owe more than the home's current value.

The Post's article, which talks about how home prices have risen, says:

Many of the homeowners with mortgages higher than their home's value were clustered in the eastern parts of the District and in Prince George's County.
This makes it clear that the economic recovery is not hitting all areas or all people equally. We need more jobs east of the river and in Prince George's County, especially at Metro stations, to help our economic success benefit all.


"Degree density" maps show region's east-west divide

What's the difference between Friendship Heights and Capitol Heights? The number of people with college degrees.

Degree density in and around DC. Each blue dot represents 1,000 people 25 and over with a college degree; each pink dot, 1,000 people 25+ without. Maps by Rob Pitingolo.

Rob Pitingolo has done a lot of research on which places have more or fewer people with college degrees. DC has the fourth most college degrees per square mile of any city in the nation, but that doesn't apply everywhere in the region or everywhere in DC.

Rob created these maps that show the locations of people with and without college degrees aged 25 and over.

There seems to be a fair amount of mixing in Virginia, but in DC and Maryland, the divide is starker. East of the Anacostia, blue dots are very few; west of Rock Creek and in the central city, they overwhelm the pink dots.

A lot of news stories talk about the DC region in terms of the division between black and white. The city's history of racial segregation has left a legacy of educational and socioeconomic inequality. As a result, many commentators use race as a simplistic shorthand for conflicts that are really about college educated versus not, or wealthy versus poor, or young versus old.

Race is immutable, but other characteristics are not. If our divisions are really about black versus white, they're not going to change unless some people move out of the city, and that's not what we want to happen. But education levels can change, and it's good for everyone if we can help all people in our region access better education.


Thundersnow traffic illustrates east-west divide

As thundersnow passed through the DC area right at rush hour, we were able to see the nadir of bad traffic via Google Maps.

The map is color-coded based on speed: green for fast, yellow for slow, red for very slow. The red-and-black striped areas are probably where car traffic has stopped entirely. You can see that auto traffic in the DC area affects both suburbs and city equally, even if those who don't have to drive can avoid it. But most importantly, you can see how normal, everyday highway chokepointslike the Beltway/I-270 mergehave converged with other chokepoints, forming miles-long traffic jams, like the one along the Beltway from College Park to Springfield.

But the Beltway commute isn't terrible for everyone. Notice how the most of the Beltway's eastern half, going through Prince George's County, is yellow. If you're driving from, say, Largo to Greenbelt, your trip is probably a little slower than usual, but still fine.

There aren't too many people in that situation, as most of the region's jobs are located on the west side, in places like Bethesda and Tysons Corner. One of the reasons why traffic was so bad last night, and relatively bad every other night, is because every morning thousands of people have to travel from one side of the region to the other.

Commuters are then faced with a choice: pay more to live near your job, whether it's in DC, Tysons or elsewhere, or spend less money on a home farther away from your job. That doesn't always mean moving to a more distant suburb. For many, the most affordable housing choice, and often the only affordable housing choice, is in Prince George's County, right on the District line.

There are lots of ways to fix this problem, like providing more housing in places like Tysons Corner where people already work, or putting more jobs in places like Prince George's County where people already live.

These solutions won't help anyone in traffic last night, but if implemented, they'll make future rush hours more bearable for people on both sides of the Beltway.

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