Report finds pockets of child poverty among emerging D.C. neighborhoods

October 3, 2012

In the District’s Edgewood neighborhood, abandoned warehouses, barbed-wire fences and the swooping lines of graffiti on buildings are visible just across the street from a bustling shopping center and new luxury apartments.

Development cropping up in the adjacent, gentrifying community of Brentwood has done little to change the plight of many of Edgewood’s longtime residents, especially children, according to a report prepared for release Thursday by DC Kids Count, a non-profit research and advocacy group.

Most residents of Edgewood lack easy access to a library, a grocery store, a recreation center and transportation infrastructure, as do residents of other communities with high concentrations of child poverty, according to the annual report for 2011 on the welfare of D.C. children.

For the first time, the report incorporates non-traditional indicators of child poverty, developed pro-bono by outside experts, that show how a neighborhood’s demographics and resources contribute to a child’s well-being and future success.

For example, the report found that 13 out of 39 clusters of neighborhoods in the District do not have grocery stores. Of that figure, nearly half have child poverty rates above 50 percent. More than 95 percent of children living in these areas are black, the report said.

High rates of single motherhood and violent crime also are strong predictors of child poverty, according to the report.

Of the roughly 100,000 children who resided in the District in 2011, 30 percent were growing up in families living below the poverty line, according to the report. Nearly 45 percent of those lived in high-poverty neighborhoods.

While the poverty rate for the entire D.C. population declined from 19.2 percent in 2010 to 18.7 percent in 2011, child poverty rates remained stagnant. The overall poverty rate is up by 7.6 percent since 2007.

The report’s new neighborhood-by-neighborhood information is presented in an interactive map, accessible on the Web.

“We didn’t want to put out another PDF that sat on people’s shelves. We wanted to create something that was interactive and that would build responses,” said Gwen Rubinstein, deputy director of the advocacy group DC Action for Children, a part of DC Kids Count.

In particular, DC Kids Count is hoping that its new neighborhood-focused approach will get elected leaders, non-profit organizations, schools and others across the District talking about ways to better distribute resources to areas where they are most needed, Rubinstein said.

The report does indicate signs of promise. For instance, the number of children under 5, which had been in a decade-long decline, is growing, Rubinstein said.

“This growth gives the city a planning horizon. It gives us the opportunity to get it right for these children and all the ones that come after them,” she said.

Emily Lawson, founder of DC Prep charter school in high-poverty Edgewood, knows firsthand the effect a neighborhood can have on a child. Many of her students worry about getting from home to school safely, Lawson said.

“Crime is still a big concern,” she said.

The interactive database is available at DCKids.org.

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