Powerful injustices must be met with equally powerful
While DC’s child poverty rate decreased in the years immediately prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it continues to be highest for Black residents.
Approximately 21,000 District children lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty line in 2022, down from 29,000 in 2012.
Roughly 9 out of 10 of the children living in poverty are Black. Regardless of the ward a family resides in, in every ward a higher percentage of Black households live in poverty than the White households living in the same ward.
Gender also plays a role in child poverty. While almost half of children (46%) raised by single women are in poverty, only 17% of children raised by single men and 5% raised by married couples are living in poverty.
There are major differences between the wards, with nearly 40% of ward 7 and 8 children living in poverty compared to just 2% of children in ward 3. However, this is not just an issue of differences between wards. In every ward of the District poverty is higher for Black residents than for white residents.
Most DC Children Living in High Poverty Communities are Black
DC has gaps both between wards and between different groups within each ward.
While median income for families with children rose in every ward between the 2012-2016 5-year average and 2017-2021 5-year average, in ward 3 the 2021 (5-year average) median income for families with children was over $250,000 whereas in Ward 8 it was only $37,800.
Racism continues to drive the economic divide in the District. White families earn nearly four times ($237,074) as much as Black families ($61,531), and well over twice as much as Latinx families ($104,781). In DC concentrated income inequality and poverty only persists for Black and brown families.
Because of historic and ongoing segregation within DC one might think that the geographic income disparity explains the racial disparity, but within every ward the median income for white families is higher than the median income for Black families.
One program to help DC’s youth develop employment skills is the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program, which Black youth disproportionately participate in (83% of the participants who identified their race in 2020).
DC Median Family Income by Race
Race & Equity
Children Living Below the Poverty Line
Prior to the pandemic, unemployment fell but not enough to close gaps.
The pandemic, which sent the unemployment rate to 7.2% in fiscal year 2020, reversed years of progress that saw DC’s unemployment rate fall from 7.8% in fiscal year 2014 to 5.7% in fiscal 2019. Still huge gaps remain as in 2021 DC’s Black unemployment level was almost twice the District-wide rate.
Youth unemployment in 2022 was 9.5%, which is an improvement over the 2020 rate of 17.3% but still twice the overall DC unemployment rate. An estimated 3,000 16- to 24-year-olds in the workforce were unemployed in 2022, with higher unemployment rates for Black than white youth.
DC Lowered Unemployment Rates Prior to the Pandemic, but Huge Gaps Still Remained and were Exacerbated by the Pandemic
Race & Equity
Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
The threat of housing insecurity persists.
31% of DC children live in households that spent more than 30% of their monthly income on housing in 2021.
On a single night in January 2023, the official count found 704 homeless children in DC families.
The official point in time count number doesn’t include many, including families who are “doubled up” (e.g. on a friend’s couch). In the 2022-23 school year, DC public schools reported 8,300 homeless students, more than double the 2013-14 school year.
One group who’s often couch surfing or “doubled up” is youth (under the ages of 25) who are homeless or unstably housed without a parent or guardian. In fiscal year 2022, the District’s Department of Human Services homelessness system served 1,934 youth experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. In the 2022 Youth Count survey of homeless youth, 4 out of 5 of the youth were Black and one out of five were parents.
In addition to dealing with the effects of racism, many of the youth who wind up homeless have been failed by our systems in the most profound ways. Based on Youth Count in 2022:
32% of non-parenting homeless DC youth are LGBTQ+. 7% of non-parenting homeless DC youth identify as non-cisgender, including those identifying as transgender and other gender expressions
Roughly 1 out of 4 of unaccompanied homeless youth reported that at some point in their life they had experience with the justice system (24%)
2 in 5 youth who are homeless without a parent or guardian did not graduate from high school
Roughly 1 out of 4 unaccompanied homeless youth reported that at some point in their life they had experience with the child welfare system (23%)
38% of youth who are homeless without a parent or guardian have experienced domestic violence, and more than half (61%) of those report that they started having housing issues because of that violence
In 2019 roughly 1 out of 12 youth who were homeless without a parent or guardian reported being sex trafficked (7% of non-parenting youth and 9% of parenting youth)
Wards Where DC’s Homeless Students Attend Public Schools
Parent Research Worker, Mary’s Center Home Visiting Program
“I personally worked with a homeless couple who had a one-year old baby. This family had been living in their car for several months before the father was involved in a car accident that left the car completely destroyed.”
Find more information about all the economic justice measures in our data references section and visit our appendix to download a table with the full DC Kids Count 2023 data set.
Unless otherwise noted, data shown is based on the most recently available data which for most measures is the 2015-2019 5-year average (previous data 2010-2014). Individuals who are Black and Latinx may be counted in both groups.
DC Action’s DC Kids Count site is a publication of DC Action and funded, in part, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The findings and conclusions presented are those of DC Action and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundation. DC Kids Count provides the best available District-wide and ward-level data to measure and track the well-being of our District’s children and young adults. DC Action is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.