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.
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 20% of children raised by single men and 4% raised by married couples are living in poverty.
There are major differences between the wards, with over 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
Impacts of COVID-19
Almost half of DC renters with children said they have no or only slight confidence in their ability to make next month’s rent or were deferring their payment, three times the rate of renters without children.
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 2014 and 2019, in ward 3 the 2019 (5-year average) median income for families with children was over $250,000 whereas in Ward 8 it was only $31,600.
Racism continues to drive the economic divide in the District. White families earn nearly four times ($215,719) as much as Black families ($55,301), and well over twice as much as Latinx families ($85,737). 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).
DC Median Family Income
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%, has reversed years of progress that saw DC’s unemployment rate fall from 7.8% in 2014 to 5.7% in 2019. Still huge gaps remain as DC’s Black unemployment level is almost twice the District-wide rate.
Youth unemployment is 17.3%, which is over twice the overall DC unemployment rate. An estimated 7,000 16- to 24-year-olds in the workforce were unemployed in 2020.
In September 2019, 13,125 households, including 21,751 children, received benefits through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.
DC Lowered Unemployment Rates Prior to the Pandemic, but Huge Gaps Still Remained
Race & Equity
Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
The threat of housing insecurity persists.
34% of DC children live in households that spent more than 30% of their monthly income on housing.
On a single night in January 2020, the official count found 1,420 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 2018-19 school year, DC public schools reported 7,728 homeless students, more than double the 2013-14 school year. That decreased slightly to 7,139 in the 2019-20 school year, but it’s unclear how decreased contact with students and the eviction moratorium during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted that figure.
This point in time count also doesn’t include unaccompanied youth. Youth Count in 2019 counted 1,306 unaccompanied homeless youth under the age of 25, of which 9 of 10 are Black. Almost half of the youth (43%) are 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:
34% of non-parenting homeless DC youth are LGBTQ+, with 7% being transgender women
Roughly 1 out of 12 youth who are homeless without a parent or guardian reported being sex trafficked (7% of non-parenting youth and 9% of parenting youth)
Roughly 1 out of 4 unaccompanied homeless youth reported that at some point in their life they had experience with the justice system (26% of non-parenting youth and 24% of parenting youth)
2 in 5 youth who are homeless without a parent or guardian did not graduate from high school (41% of non-parenting youth and 38% of parenting youth)
Over 1 out of 5 unaccompanied homeless youth reported that at some point in their life they had experience with the child welfare system (23% of non-parenting youth and 21% of parenting youth)
Over one-third of youth who are homeless without a parent or guardian (35% of non-parenting youth and 36% of parenting youth) have a past family history of family violence, and 70% of those with a past history of family or intimate partner violence report that they started having housing issues because of that violence
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 2021 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.