As the D.C. budget grows more flush and housing prices continue to soar, concentrated poverty among households with children persists in some areas, according to a report released Tuesday.
The report by a local advocacy agency found that the overall median income of D.C. families has climbed since 2010. But families living in Wards 7 and 8, the only wards east of the Anacostia River, have experienced sharp declines.
D.C. Action for Children’s annual “Ward Snapshots” report breaks down child poverty rates and family economics by ward, saying that as the city fills its coffers, it needs to ensure that families across the city benefit from it.
“As the District gets more wealthy, how is it affecting all kids?” Shana Bartley, the group’s acting executive director, said of the report. “Ward Snapshots” culled data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the D.C. Department of Health, the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education and more.
Since 2010, the number of young children living in the city has increased by 23 percent, and children younger than 5 account for nearly 40 percent of the child population. But the wards with the highest share of these young children — Wards 5, 7 and 8 — have the lowest median family incomes.
In Ward 8, for example, the median family income dropped nearly 17 percent between 2006-2010 and 2010-2015, from $28,979 to $24,096.
Likewise, in Ward 7, the median family income during those years went from $34,562 to $31,273, a nearly 10 percent drop.
By comparison, the median family income in Ward 2 jumped nearly 65 percent, from $114,752 to $189,324.
Bartley said that one factor driving these disparate incomes is that as families are priced out of neighborhoods in Wards 1 and 2, for example, they are moving to Ward 8, the city’s poorest ward.
While the overall child poverty rate has declined to 26.7 percent — a drop of three percentage points since 2010 — there has been a slight uptick in Wards 3, 4 and 8. Ward 3 had a child poverty rate of 2.9 percent in 2015, compared with Ward 8’s 49 percent. Some of the increases could be attributed to rising housing costs. Ward 3’s rate was previously 2.4 percent; Ward 8’s was 48.3 percent.
The report found that more than 40 percent of D.C. residents spend more than a third of their monthly income on rent and related costs. The number of children enrolled in Medicaid increased by 21 percent, with the largest jumps in Wards 3, 4 and 8.
Some positive trends also emerged: In Wards 7 and 8, teen pregnancy rates steadily declined between 2010 and 2015, and students’ standardized test scores there saw slight increases between 2015 and 2016.
The report does not create a new narrative in the nation’s capital: The city has long been divided by race and socioeconomics. The report suggests that the wave of wealth the city has seen in recent years — the D.C. budget has reserves totaling $2.4 billion — has not trickled to all residents equitably.
“The biggest thing for the District to be is forward thinking,” Bartley said. “We’re continuing to see a baby boom, we are seeing families laying down roots in the city, public school enrollment is increasing, but we have to make sure that there’s infrastructure in the city to support healthy growth for all families and kids in the District.”
D.C. Action for Children recommends that the city boost access to quality early-childhood care and education, use census and local demographic data to determine how to allocate the city’s budget, and put more resources toward home-visiting programs that would support maternal and child health.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser released her 2018 $13.8 billion budget earlier this month that proposes modest spending increases for affordable housing, homeless services and education.