D.C. shows Sun Belt-like population growth


Coming developments like the CityCenter DC project downtown could add thousands more residents to the city in the coming years. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Reminders of the District’s population growth are getting a little bit repetitive at this point, so you’re forgiven if you gloss over the latest Census Bureau data set. But new estimates of city populations as of July 2012 make it clear that the District’s growth — 5.1 percent since April 2010 — puts the nation’s capital on par with some Sun Belt boomtowns.

Among the 25 largest cities in the country, only Austin (6.6 percent) and Charlotte (6.0 percent) grew faster than the District did in those 27 months. Expand that to the nation’s 50 largest cities, Denver and Atlanta (both at 5.7 percent) outpaced the District. Among the nation’s 100 largest cities, D.C. ranks eight in growth percentage, behind New Orleans and Irvine, Calif., and 23rd among the 300 largest cities.

D.C. did not add enough residents to move up in the national rankings — it remains America’s 24th largest city as it was in 2010 — but it has grown faster in that period than Seattle, San Jose, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Las Vegas and other cities considered to be closer to the cutting edge of American urban trends. And D.C. has managed its growth within the confines of a city that is already overwhelmingly developed. Other heavily developed Eastern cities significantly lagged the District: Boston grew 3.1 percent, New York 2 percent, Philadelphia 1.4 percent and Baltimore 0.1 percent.

Note that the new data doesn’t offer a more updated estimate than when state-level numbers were published last December. But Thursday’s set offers the best comparison we’ve seen yet on how the District’s growth compares to other American cities, and it is by and large a very flattering comparison.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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Mike DeBonis · May 20, 2013