Report: How D.C. Can Help Its Black Population Stay In The City
D.C.’s black residents, who now make up less than half of the city’s population, are struggling to stay in a place that was once known as Chocolate City.
As the District’s job market becomes more competitive, D.C. officials are not doing enough to assist its black residents—many of whom are unqualified for the positions, according to a new report. It also says that the city needs to advance housing initiatives to benefit black residents who are employed, but still struggle with D.C.’s high costs of living.
Georgetown University researchers found in the report “African American Employment, Population & Housing Trends in Washington, D.C.” that more than half of all new jobs in the city between 2010 and 2020 required or will require at least a bachelor’s degree.
Meanwhile, there’s a disparate picture in terms of education attainment by race in the District.
The Georgetown researchers, who said they used U.S. census data, reported that 12.3 percent of black residents and 37.1 percent of white residents, had this level of education in 2014.
Those numbers do not take into account people with both bachelor’s and graduate degrees, but figures that include graduate degrees also reflect a racial disparity. When looking at people with bachelor’s degrees or higher, census data shows that 25.6 percent of black residents have at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 92 percent of white residents.
As a result of the education gap, among other factors, the unemployment rate for African Americans in D.C. is over six times higher than for white residents.
African American households in D.C. also saw their median income drop from $42,000 to $38,000 from 2015 to 2016, according to Census data, meaning they make about a third as much as the average white household.
“The city needs to enact policies and better support programs that will ensure that African American residents, who provide invaluable contributions to life in the nation’s capital, have equal economic and educational opportunities and incentives to stay in the District,” said Georgetown history professor and report editor Maurice Jackson.
According to the report, which was commissioned by D.C.’s Commission on African American Affairs, most of the District’s job growth will come from two sectors—professional and business services and education and health services.
Among other recommendations to assist African Americans, the report suggest that the city invest in healthcare initiatives because about 50 percent of new jobs in this industry won’t require advanced degrees. This could be done by giving high school students better resources to become nurses, radiologists, EMTs, and physician’s assistants.
While the city has long invested in apprenticeships in the construction industry, it can expand such programs to include information technology, healthcare, transportation, hospitality, financial services, and government, according to the report.
It also suggests that officials properly enforce initiatives already in place—such as the First Source program, which encourages companies to fill jobs on publicly funded projects in the city with 51 percent of D.C. residents.
The report also points out that many hardworking black residents with “modest means” are being pushed out of the city because of socioeconomic changes due to trends like gentrification. Many black residents end up in the suburbs because they don’t own properties or struggle to pay rising rent costs, which “directly correlate with the fact that many African Americans are stuck with lower-paying jobs and few opportunities for job training to advance.”
In 1970, black people accounted for 71.1 percent of D.C.’s population. By 2015, it dropped below 50 percent for the first time in nearly 60 years—to 48.3 percent.
To keep D.C.’s declining black population in the city, the report suggests that the city create more affordable housing in neighborhoods with higher income levels, invest in poor neighborhoods with rent-to-own housing, create comprehensive affordable housing database, and strengthen penalties for landlords who engage in unfair practices.