DC’s changing demography

Lots of people have (for example, G.L. Piggy) have written about the unbearable whitening of DC.

In my DC census tract, the white population increased by over 400% between 2000 and 2010. In the late ’90s, in my census tract, gun shots were a common sound. Now most loud noises are made by construction crews rehabbing the old houses. Wealthy people are even beginning to send their kids to the public schools – at least for elementary school.

Obviously this process creates tension. It’s fine to acknowledge this tension, but I’m tired of hearing people discuss the issue in moral terms and making it sound mixed. In moral terms, gentrification has been unquestionably good. I find it appalling that people are willing to balance hurt feelings on one side against fewer murders, less corrupt politics and increased wealth on the other side. There really is no moral ambiguity here. Here’s the Washington Post:

The loss of blacks comes at a time when the city is experiencing a rebound, reversing a 60-year-long slide in population and adding almost 20,000 new residents between 2000 and 2010.

Are these phenomenon related? Don’t expect the Post to consider the possibility.

Of course, from my perspective, the best part about the whole issue is that the gentrifiers are super-SWPLs. They’re displacing blacks and they feel really bad about it, but the new bar around the corner that serves $9 super micro-brews from that small town in Belgium is really good.

Here is Marion Barry in the same Post article:

“We’re going to stop this trend — gentrification,” said D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). “We can’t displace old-time Washingtonians.”

“The key to keeping this city black is jobs, jobs, jobs for black people so they can have a better quality of life in neighborhoods in the city,” he added. “I believe in integration, but I don’t believe in the apartheid we have in Ward 8. You don’t see corner stores in Ward 3. You don’t see the liquor stores.”

Ward 8 – which elected Barry as its councilman and therefore deserves all the bad things it gets – is the area of DC across the Anacostia River that is virtually completely black and still very poor. Is Barry suggesting that black jobs are the ones working in "corner stores" and "liquor stores?" I’m not sure. You never really what Barry is saying.

Here’s Matthew Yglesias on the same phenomenon:

This is, I think, a mistake. The labor market in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Statistical Area is among the strongest in the entire country. Obviously more employment opportunities would be welcome, but lack of employment opportunities isn’t really a characteristic of this city.

He goes on to suggest that what DC needs is more housing. Obviously Yglesias doesn’t spend much time in Ward 8. If you go here and look at the population changes in Ward 8, you’ll find that the Ward lost population (significantly) in the last decade. Frankly, the Ward has plenty of housing. The problem is that no one who can afford to live elsewhere wants to live in Ward 8.

On jobs, I think both Barry and Yglesias are correct. DC has plenty of jobs, but they’re not "jobs for black people".

There are two factors at work here: 1) the Post article quotes a demographer from Howard University saying, "You have this unusually large college educated population [i.e. white people]. And then you have a population that is largely black, with high school degrees or less;" and 2) the jobs available in DC have requirements that favor the former group (i.e. the college educated).

Even the growth in government lately, has been in areas that require college degrees – and not just any college degree. The hiring that I have done at my agency is geared toward people with scientific or mathematical backgrounds. If we have a choice between someone who double majored in African-American studies and Economics or someone who double majored in Physics and Economics, we’re picking the latter.

Of course, it’s true that blacks are over-represented in government jobs, but they’re also concentrated in obsolete agencies – as we’ve recently seen – administrative positions (I’m pretty sure there is some of cartel of obese, middle-aged black women that controls all administrative positions in the federal government), and positions specifically reserved by Congress for diversity hires.

Basically, the SWPLs can’t have it both ways. On one hand they want government run by experts and they want a hiring process that results in experts being hired. On the other hand, they want minorities employed. They’ve squared the circle by hiring experts to do the work (I work with six or seven agencies on a regular basis and our meetings are always all white or white and Asian) and hiring blacks to do make-work. As government positions require more technical expertise – and all the new ones do – they end up requiring that white people occupy the positions. An ironic consequence of government by expert, no? Perhaps I’m the only one laughing at the phenomenon, but I’m doing enough laughing for everyone.


16 Responses to DC’s changing demography

  1. Cassandra Goldman says:

    You’re not the only one laughing, believe me.

  2. james wilson says:

    So, government is hiring highly qualified people to do complex technical work that should never have been created in the first place, and surprise, highly qualified people will be grateful servants within the only growth industry in the United States. Lesser geniuses, even black people, are employed to oversee the dysfunctional classes next door from which some came, which sees to permanent work for a two-tiered system of federal employment welfare. The checks are much better than those cut for the unemployable, but it is all one burden carried by the same taxpayer mules.

    I’m certain Eastman-Kodak was an organization far superior to government, but the market still retired them. What will retire government?

    • Hail says:

      Government is hiring highly qualified people to do complex technical work that should never have been created in the first place

      Nice line.

      Most government jobs are “make-work”, no matter how technical they are or appear to be.

  3. Firepower says:

    …SWPLs can’t have it both ways. On one hand they want government run by experts and they want a hiring process that results in experts being hired.

    Never underestimate the SWPLs proven historic record of destroying their own culture.

  4. Handle says:

    The fascinating aspect of this to me is how it is the rare inverse of what has happened to every other city in America – which is White Flight to the Suburbs and the abandonment of once thriving metropolitan centers to ghetto-ization.

    In these areas, those that were left behind didn’t complain as much when the white people left and they do now in DC when they’re moving in, but they should have – things got much worse for them once the entire middle class retreated from the area as an irrevocably lost cause.

    I think there needs to be two factors at play here to create this sort of gentrification; (1) A special driver of the economy and professional-level job creation peculiar to the locality, and (2) Some kind of geographical constraint.

    The obvious candidate cities for this new American phenomenon then would be San Francisco, Manhattan, and DC.

    The polar opposites would be in once-concentrated cities surrounded by lots of cheap land, large NAM populations, and with dying local mega-industries. These are the ultra-flight large cities of the Midwest: Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee.

    California and Texas seem to me to be in their own special categories, and so is the collectrion of major neo-SWPL-topias Portland, Seattle, and Boston.

    • Anon for now says:

      “White flight” tended to be white ethnic, not WASPy / SWPL-types. I’d like to see the ethnic/religious background of the whites who left to the whites who are “returning.”

  5. Red says:

    The primary driver in all of this is trash people. With the changes to hud where the trash is being moved out of the big cities into the burbs(which of course is a better environment and make the trash people all better, Redux TM) so the upper class followed by the middle class moves back to the cities to escape the trash once again.

    The shame of this entire system is it’s easy to keep the trash in their place no mater where they live if you simply allow people to do what natural to them without police interference. This leads to beatings of trash who gets out of line and in worser cases burning the houses down of the worse trash families.

  6. Hail says:

    “We can’t displace old-time Washingtonians.” –Marion Barry

    I sympathize with this in a certain way. From a Black city to an SWPL city? Out of the frying pan, into the fire?

    (Granted, the Blacks to which Defendant Barry refers themselves displaced the even-older-time Washingtonians, mostly white, but that is another question).

  7. Hail says:

    There is another matter here:
    This is 2011, not 1951. The District of Columbia is a relatively small part of “DC Metro Area”. 6 million or so live in DC Metro Area, only 10% of them live in the District. Maybe 20% of the region’s jobs are in the District.

    The Metro Area, as a whole, continues its slide towards Brazil, regardless of what’s happening “downtown”.

  8. josh says:

    The DC local gov. is still dedicated to “jobs for black people”. Note the monotonic decline in the quality of the Metro. They can’t even keep the escalators working. The quality of the police force seems to be declining as well.

  9. Leonard says:

    I have always thought that the American pattern of cities was unnatural and unlikely to persist.

    Property values follow money. The natural pattern is high property values in the inner city, with property values declining as the concentration of people and productivity decline. And the natural pattern is rich people live in high value areas, and the poor in low-value areas.

    In America, we got something else. By coincidence, we happened to have anarchised our lower classes (thus creating the underclass) at the same time as we mobilized everyone else with automobiles and freeways. Instead of reasserting control of the lower classes, the middle class had the power to flee them. Thus the American inverted city: the middle class around it, the poor in it, and the rich living where ever they want.

  10. Brickhouse says:

    “Ward 8 – which elected Barry as its councilman and therefore deserves all the bad things it gets,” that is the most ridiculous statement if I ever heard one. While I am personally not a fan of Marion Barry and did NOT vote for him, I am a ward 8 resident and find this statement appalling. It comes from someone who has clearly not spent a significant amount of time in either Ward 8 or Ward 7, which has similar demographic and statistics to Ward 8, yet doesn’t host Marion Barry.

  11. TGGP says:

    One thing I’ve never heard mentioned in discussions of gentrification, is that the people who move in must have come from somewhere. By leaving they increase the supply of available housing in those places. And since they didn’t move into the city until it became a better place to live, those available housing units are better than the currently poor had been living in. This is what happens when bad areas become better, the supply of good places increases.

  12. […] – “DC’s Changing Demography“, “We All Talk Progressive“, “Freedom, Dependency and […]

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