But in many other important areas, the differences between blacks and whites persist, regardless of income level. Blacks with household incomes of $100,000 or more express significantly more sour views of the District’s economy than do whites with similar incomes. Higher-income African Americans also are less secure than whites about their own financial well-being, more apprehensive about the spreading effects of gentrification and somewhat more critical of the state of race relations in the District.
The overall results of the poll show that even as African Americans attain a higher economic status, their perspectives remain shaped by decades of economic difficulty and a sense that many blacks, including some in their own families, are still struggling.
Still, the long-told tale of two cities — a Washington divided neatly along racial lines — is far more nuanced than typically described, the poll shows.
The poll of 1,342 District residents offers a unique opportunity to look at the similarities and differences within and between racial groups in Washington. In a city with stark economic disparities often characterized solely by race, the survey provides fresh insights into the dynamics behind the District’s quickly changing racial mosaic.
While Washington has long been a city defined by tense race relations, particularly in the years after the riots in the late 1960s and into the long tenure of former mayor Marion Barry, relationships between blacks and whites have taken a new turn as African Americans make up a lower percentage of the city’s population. A city that 30 years ago was 70 percent black has now seen the end of its black majority.
Nearly three-quarters of African Americans say this population shift has changed the culture of the District; barely more than half of whites say the same. Both blacks and whites who sense an altered culture are more apt to say the change has been “mostly good” than “mostly bad,” but more African Americans see a negative turn.
In many cases, the views of higher-income blacks are less bleak than those of other African Americans and more like those of white people across the city. Nearly half believe the city is heading in the right direction, mirroring the views of upper-income whites, but differing a bit from the responses of blacks in families that earn less than $100,000. Only 41 percent of African Americans in families making less than $100,000 said the District was heading in a good direction.
In some instances, the difference between higher- and lower-income blacks is larger than the racial gap itself. When it comes to problems paying for housing and food in the past year, there’s a bigger divide between African Americans with family incomes of more than $100,000 and those from households under $35,000 — near the median income for blacks in the District — than there is between whites and blacks overall.