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 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
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 2021 was 11.7%, which is an improvement over the 2020 rate of 17.3% but still almost twice the overall DC unemployment rate. An estimated 4,500 16- to 24-year-olds in the workforce were unemployed in 2021.
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 2018-19 school year, DC public schools reported 7,728 homeless students, more than double the 2013-14 school year. That decreased to 5,673 in the 2020-21 school year and 5,672 in the 2021-22 school year, but it’s unclear how strained student-staff relationships and the eviction moratorium and extension of rapid rehousing vouchers during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted those figures. The initial decrease disproportionately occurred at schools located in wards 7 and 8, and between 2020-21 and 21-22 the ward 1 count continued to drop while every other ward’s count increased.
- This point in time count also doesn’t include unaccompanied youth. Youth Count in 2022 counted at least 948 unaccompanied homeless youth under the age of 25. That survey covered both those who are on the street, in an emergency shelter, or in a transitional housing program, as well as those at couch-surfing or at imminent risk of homelessness. The actual number of young people experiencing homelessness is likely higher: In 2019 YouthCounts counted more unstably housed young people than literally homeless, and if the same ratio applied in 2022 there would be nearly 1250 youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability. In 2019, 9 out of 10 of the youth were Black and almost half of the youth (43%) were parents.
Wards Where DC’s Homeless Students Attend Public Schools
Parent Research Worker, Mary’s Center Home Visiting Program