American cities are at their highest point of integration in the last 100 years, a recent study found, but the District’s racial makeup is desegregating more slowly.
The study, released Jan. 30 by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, analyzed patterns of segregation across the country from 1890 to 2010 and found all-white neighborhoods have virtually vanished, segregation is at a low and ghettos are shrinking. But while some of D.C.’s neighborhoods have integrated, others are moving at a more gradual rate.
“Our intention was really to write a study that would have people stop and take a look around and see how different things were from a few decades ago,” Jacob Vigdor, one of the authors of the study and an adjunct fellow for the institute, said.
The report found that “the separation of blacks from individuals of other races declined in all 85 of the nation’s 85 largest metropolitan areas.”
Navy Yard, near Nationals Park, saw a shift from 95 percent black in 2000 to 31 percent black in 2010, following a 50 percent overall population spike.
Vigdor said the stadium’s opening in 2008 might have signaled the shift by spurring more development in the neighborhood.
Neighborhoods in the city’s Northwest quadrant saw a 25 percent decline in the proportion of black residents over the last decade, representing a “more gradual process of racial change” than other neighborhoods, according to the study.
At the same time, data for D.C. as a whole showed little change from 2000 to 2010, with 17 areas of the city that were more than 98 percent black remaining more than 95 percent black even after a decade.
“Gentrification in Washington, as elsewhere, has occurred primarily at the fringe of the ghetto,” the study reads.
Individuals who grow up in diverse areas, Vigdor said, like cities, tend to seek out neighborhoods that match that demographic, triggering further integration.
College students are part of a generation that has spent more time with other cultures, he added.
“Some of those neighborhoods that would have been completely off the radar for GW students are now places where they want to hang out,” Vigdor said, citing Adams Morgan as a top example.
Martis Davis, who serves on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission – a local government body that advises city agencies on matters affecting residents, like safety, trash and health – for Adams Morgan, said the area itself has transformed over the years into a more welcoming scene for students due to an influx of bars and restaurants.
He said in terms of economic demographics, the area is now more affluent.
“The bars and restaurants that dot the commercial district actually pre-date the total racial transformation and are still a destination for students from around the city regardless of ethnicity,” Davis said.
Foggy Bottom has only experienced subtle changes in diversity because of its close proximity to places like Georgetown, Vigdor said, which has historically been a higher-income area comprising more whites, and large government institutions that serve as a buffer for residential data collection.
Figures for Foggy Bottom’s racial makeup were not included in the study.
Professor of sociology and public policy and public administration Gregory Squires said the report overstates the decline of desegregation in the country because it still persists in large cities with concentrated black populations.
Priya Anand contributed to this report.