Demographics of Washington, D.C.
The demographics of Washington, D.C., also known as the District of Columbia, reflect an ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan capital city. In 2017, the District had a population of 693,972 people with a resident density of 11,367 people per square mile. The city has seen a net population gain of more than 90,000 people since the 2010 Census and more than 120,000 people since the 2000 Census. Washington, D.C., is unique among major U.S. cities in that its founding was not organic, but rather established as a result of a political compromise. The District had relatively few residents during much of its early history up until the Civil War. The presence of the U.S. federal government in Washington has been instrumental in the city's later growth and development. Its role as the capital leads people to forget that Washington has a native resident population.
In 2011 Washington's black population slipped below 50 percent for the first time in over 50 years. The city was a majority-black city from the late 1950s through 2011. Washington has had a significant African-American population since the city's creation; several D.C. neighborhoods are well-noted for their contributions to black history and culture. Like numerous other border and northern cities in the first half of the 20th century, Washington received many black migrants from the South in the Great Migration, who moved North for better education and job opportunities, as well as to escape legal segregation and lynchings. Government growth related to World War II provided economic opportunities for African Americans, too.
In the postwar era, the percentage of African Americans in the city steadily increased as its total population declined as a result of suburbanization supported by federal highway construction, and white flight. The black population included a strong middle and upper class.
Since the 2000 U.S. Census, the city has added more than 120,000 residents and reversed a significant amount of the population losses seen in previous decades. The District has experienced an increase in the proportion of white, Asian, and Hispanic residents, and a decline in the city's black population. Some of the latter have moved to the suburbs; others have moved to new opportunities in the South in a New Great Migration.
Washington, D.C., was established to be the new United States capital and is largely a planned city. However, there were already a number of settlements within the federal territory when it was created in 1790. Most important of these settlements were the cities of Georgetown, founded in 1751, and Alexandria, Virginia (then included in the District), founded in 1749. Together these two cities had most of the District's early residents. The populations of each place were counted separately from that of the City of Washington until Alexandria was returned to Virginia in 1846, and until the District of Columbia was formed into a single municipality in 1871. In 1790, Alexandria had a population of 2,748. By 1800, the City of Washington had a population of 3,210, Georgetown had 2,993, and Alexandria had 4,971.
The District's population remained small in comparison to other major U.S. cities. In 1860, directly prior to the Civil War, the District had about 75,000 residents, far smaller than such major historical port cities as New York at 800,000 or Philadelphia at more than 500,000. It is notable that Washington had a large African-American population even prior to the Civil War, and most were free people of color, not slaves. Due to slaveholders' manumission of slaves in the Upper South after the American Revolutionary War, the free black population in those states climbed markedly from an estimated 1% before the war to 10% by 1810. Since many states did not permit free blacks to stay after gaining freedom, they often relocated to the District; in 1860, approximately 80% of the city's African-American residents were free blacks.
Following the Civil War, the District's population jumped 75% to more than 130,000. Washington's population continued to grow throughout the late nineteenth century as Irish-American, German-American and Jewish-American immigrant communities formed in the areas surrounding downtown. By 1900, the city's growth had spread to the more residential sections beyond the old Florida Avenue boundary line following the development of the city's streetcar lines along major arteries such as Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Connecticut Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue, Georgia Avenue, 14th Street and 16th Street. By 1930, development within the District's boundaries was largely complete, with the exception of a few outlying areas in far Northeast and Southeast and the city's population totalled just under 500,000. In response to the Great Depression in the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation expanded the bureaucracy in Washington. World War II further increased government activity and defense contracting, adding to the number of federal employees in the capital. People came from across the country to work in wartime Washington. By 1950, the District's population reached a peak of 802,178 residents.
Shortly thereafter, in a pattern repeated across the country, the city began losing residents attracted to newer housing in the suburbs, with commutes made easier by an expanded highway network outside the city. Following social unrest and riots in the 1960s, plus increasing crime, by 1980 Washington had lost one-quarter of its population. After the achievements of civil rights, more of the city's middle-class black population also moved to the suburbs. The city's population continued to decline until the late 1990s. Gentrification efforts started to transform the demographics of distressed neighborhoods. Recently, a trend of growth since the 2000 U.S. Census provided the first rise in the District's population in 50 years.
In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau data estimated the District's population at 693,972 residents, continuing a trend of population growth in the city since the 2000 Census, which recorded 572,059 residents. During the workweek, the number of commuters from the suburbs into the city swells the District's population by an estimated 71.8%, to a daytime population of over one million people. The Washington Metropolitan Area, which includes the surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia, is the eighth-largest in the United States, with more than five million residents. When combined with Baltimore and its suburbs, the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area has a population exceeding eight million residents, the fourth-largest in the country.
There were 277,378 households within the District in 2014. Approximately 45% of those were householders living alone. There were also 117,864 family households; 20% of homes had children under the age of 18. Of those families with children, 51% were those headed by a female householder only. The average household size was 2.2 and the average family size was 3.2.
|Race and ethnicity (2014)|
(includes White Hispanics)
|Hispanic or Latino
(of any race)
The population distribution is 49% black, 43.6% white, 5.0% other (including Native Americans, Alaskans, Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders), and 3.1% Asian. Of these, there were 8.3% Hispanic (of any race) and 1.6% mixed.
In 2007, an estimated 74,000 foreign immigrants lived in Washington, D.C. Major sources of immigration have included El Salvador, Vietnam, and Ethiopia, and a concentration of Salvadorans have settled in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
D.C. has a steadily declining African-American population, due to many middle-class and professional African Americans moving to the suburbs, mostly in Maryland (for example, an African-American majority has developed in Prince George's County) and Northern Virginia, aggravated by the rising cost of living in the area.
African American has been the city's largest ethnic group since the 1950s. But in recent years the number of European Americans in the city has increased, and some have occupied gentrified areas in traditionally black neighborhoods. Since 2000 there has been a 7.3% decrease in the African-American population and a 17.8% increase in the Caucasian population. Many African Americans have moved out of the city to the suburbs. In addition, some African Americans are migrating to other parts of the South in a New Great Migration, because of family ties, increased opportunities and lower cost of living.
The Metro DC Area is the second-most popular destination for African-born immigrants, after New York City. More than 161,000 African-born people live in DC and nearby suburbs. This includes Nigerians with 19,600 residents and Ghanaians with 18,400. By far, the largest concentration of Ethiopians in the United States are found in D.C. and the local metro area. Some conservative estimates put the number at around 75,000 residents, while other estimates are as high as 250,000 Ethiopians in DC and surrounding neighborhoods.
The Hispanic population in DC is 71,000 (10.6% of DC population). The Hispanic population that commute to DC from Maryland and Virginia is around 814,000; 512,000 live in Virginia (9% of Virginia population) and 230,000 living in Maryland (9.5 of Maryland population) The largest Hispanic group is Salvadoran, accounting for an estimated 18,505 of Washington's 45,901 Hispanics. In 1976 Walter Washington, Mayor of the District of Columbia, created the Office of Latino Affairs of the District of Columbia.
While the White population of DC represents 43.6% of the total, part of this grouping includes European born residents. There are 18,359 foreign born European DC residents. The largest groups include 2,407 from the United Kingdom, 2,271 from Germany, 2,103 from France, and 899 from Italy. There are also many diaspora groups in DC including from the Irish community, the Italian community, to name a few. Another significant Caucasian community from the Caucasus region in the District includes Armenian-Americans, with approximately 8,000 residents estimated in 2003[better source needed].There are also an estimated 2,700 D.C. residents of Lebanese descent
Historically, European immigrant neighborhoods in DC have included the Irish neighborhoods of Swampoodle, currently known as NOMA (North of Massachusetts Ave), and Foggy Bottom during the latter part of the 19th century and the Italian neighborhood of Judiciary Square, that have both since ceased to be largely populated with residents from these ethnic groups. German-Jewish immigrants settled in the neighborhoods of Cleveland Park and Forest Hills and in neighborhoods east of Rock Creek Park such as Petworth, Brightwood, and Crestwood at the beginning of the 20th century. Greek immigrants settled in the downtown area of the District at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries and established the parish of Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Church on 8th and L Streets NW.
Asian-American residents make up 3% of the total population of DC. This includes 16,788 foreign born residents. The largest groups include 5,476 residents from China, 1,843 from the Philippines and 1,355 from Korea.
Note: Births in table don't add up, because Hispanics are counted both by their ethnicity and by their race, giving a higher overall number.
|Black||5,117 (55.1%)||5,026 (52.9%)||5,002 (52.2%)||4,804 (48.7%)|
|White:||3,629 (39.1%)||3,985 (41.9%)||4,061 (43.4%)||...|
|> Non-Hispanic White||2,781 (29.9%)||2,966 (31.2%)||2,976 (31.1%)||3,071 (31.2%)|
|Asian||493 (5.3%)||482 (5.1%)||499 (5.2%)||436 (4.4%)|
|American Indian||49 (0.5%)||16 (0.2%)||16 (0.2%)||8 (0.1%)|
|Hispanic (of any race)||1,247 (13.4%)||1,282 (13.5%)||1,327 (13.9%)||1,348 (13.7%)|
|Total Washington, D.C.||9,288 (100%)||9,509 (100%)||9,578 (100%)||9,858 (100%)|
- Since 2016, data for births of White Hispanic origin are not collected, but included in one Hispanic group; persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
A 2007 report found that about one-third of Washington residents are functionally illiterate, compared to a national rate of about one in five. This is attributed in part to immigrants who are not proficient in English. A 2005 study showed that 85.16% of Washington, D.C. residents age five and older speak only English at home and 8.78% speak Spanish. French is the third-most-spoken language at 1.35%.
In contrast to the high rate of functional illiteracy, nearly 46% of D.C. residents 25 and older have at least a four-year college degree, and 25% have a graduate or professional degree. In 2006, Washington residents had a median family income of $58,526. This has not changed much during the past five years.
A 2005 Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy study estimated 8.1% of LGB people make up the adult population of Washington, D.C., the highest in the United States.
The 2000 census revealed that an estimated 33,000 adults in the District of Columbia identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, about 8.1% of the city's adult population.
|Affiliation||% of Washington, D.C. adult population|
|Historically Black Protestant||23|
|Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints||1|
|Nothing in particular||6|
|Nothing in particular (religion not important)||9|
|Nothing in particular (religion important)||6|
|Other non-Christian faiths||1|
According to data from 2000, over 50% of District residents identified as Christian; of these 28% of residents are Catholic, 9.1% are American Baptist, 6.8% are Southern Baptist, 1.3% are Eastern or Oriental Orthodox, and 13% are members of other Christian denominations. Residents who practice Islam make up 10.6% of the population; followers of Judaism compose 4.5%; and 26.8% of residents adhere to other faiths or do not practice a religion. The city hosts the second largest Muslim population in the country who make up 2.1??(10.6 in previous sentence?) percent of the city and there are 134 halal restaurants.
|Historical Population of Each D.C. Jurisdiction|
|Ethnic Makeup of Washington, D.C.|
|Other||Hispanic or Latino|
- Arts and culture of Washington, D.C.
- Miss District of Columbia USA
- Washington, D.C. hardcore
- Crime in Washington, D.C.
^[a] Alexandria was returned to the state of Virginia in 1846. See: District of Columbia retrocession
^[b] Data provided by "District of Columbia - Race and Hispanic Origin: 1800 to 1990" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. 2002-09-13. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-26. Retrieved 2008-07-29. Until 1890, the U.S. Census Bureau counted the City of Washington, Georgetown, and unincorporated Washington County as three separate areas. The data provided in this article from before 1890 is calculated as if the District of Columbia were a single municipality as it is today. To view the population data for each specific area prior to 1890 see: Gibson, Campbell (June 1998). "Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
- Richards, Mark David (November 2002). "10 Myths About Washington, DC" (PDF). DC Vote. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- Tavernise, Sabrina (2011-07-17). "Washington, D.C., Loses Black Majority". The New York Times.
- "Population of the 24 Urban Places: 1790". United States Census Bureau. 1998-06-15. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- "Population of the 33 Urban Places: 1800". United States Census Bureau. 1998-06-15. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- "District of Columbia - Race and Hispanic Origin: 1800 to 1990" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. 2002-09-13. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-26. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
- "Population of the 100 Largest Urban Places: 1860". United States Census Bureau. 1998-06-15. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
- Kolchin, Peter (1994). American Slavery: 1619-1877. New York: Hill and Wang. p. 81.
- "Today in History: September 20". Library of Congress. 2007-09-18. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
- "WWII: Changes". WETA Public Broadcasting. 2001. Archived from the original on 2005-02-14. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
- "Anniversary of Washington, D.C. as Nation's Capital". United States Census Bureau. 2003-12-01. Archived from the original on 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
- "Washington's Black Majority Is Shrinking". Associated Press. 2007-09-16. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
- "District of Columbia". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
- "QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. 2017-12-20. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
- "Census 2000 Demographic Profile Highlights". United States Census Bureau. 2001. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
- Christie, Les (2005-10-21). "Biggest commuter cities". CNNMoney.com. Retrieved 2008-06-03.
- "Annual Estimates of the Population of Combined Statistical Areas". United States Census Bureau. 2008-03-27. Archived from the original (XLS) on 2009-07-09. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
- "District of Columbia Fact Sheet 2007". United States Census Bureau. 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
- Singer, Audrey; et al. (2001). "The World in a Zip Code: Greater Washington, D.C. as a New Region of Immigration" (PDF). The Brookings Institution.
- Muhammad, Nisa Islam. "D.C. ‘exodus’ sparks district renewal efforts for Whites", The Final Call, June 21, 2007. Accessed June 25, 2007.
- William H. Frey, "The New Great Migration: Black Americans' Return to the South, 1965-2000", May 2004, pp.1-4 Archived April 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., accessed 19 Mar 2008, The Brookings Institution
- (Washington Post, 10/1/14)
- HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN — Universe: TOTAL POPULATION for Washington city, District of Columbia 2005 American Community Survey. Accessed June 25, 2007.
- Migration Policy Institute, State Immigration Data Profiles, 2014
- Armenian Americans
- (Migration Policy Institute, State Immigration Profiles, 2014)
- "Study Finds One-Third in D.C. Illiterate". Associated Press. March 19, 2007.
- "Data Center Results: District of Columbia". Modern Language Association. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- LGBT Percentage Highest in D.C., Lowest in North Dakota
- Gary J. Gates, PhD (October 2006). "Same-sex Couples and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Population: New Estimates from the American Community Survey" (PDF). The Williams Institute. The Williams Institute. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- Romero, Adam P.; Amanda Baumle; M.V. Lee Badgett; Gary J. Gates (December 2007). "Census Snapshot: Washington, D.C." (PDF). The Williams Institute. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
- Adults in the District of Columbia
- "District of Columbia Denominational Groups, 2000". The Association of Religious Data Archives. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- The District of Columbia was consolidated under a single government in 1871.
For Data 1800-1870, prior to D.C. consolidation: "1870 Census Information". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 27 March 2010. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
Data 1880-1890, after D.C. consolidation: "1890 Census Information". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- "Census 2000 Demographic Profile Highlights". U.S. Census Bureau. 2000. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- "District of Columbia 2010 Census". United States Census Bureau. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-03-24. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- "District of Columbia 2013 Census estimate". United States Census Bureau.