Residents living in the Washington region’s most diverse neighborhoods are generally happy in their communities and think their neighborhoods are better than most others, according to a study released Monday.
American University surveyed more than 1,000 residents about their quality of life in diverse communities and found that more than two-thirds of respondents were extremely or very satisfied with their neighborhoods.
While residents of all races were generally happy with where they lived, the survey found that minorities in diverse neighborhoods have far more negative perceptions of law enforcement than their white neighbors. Blacks and Latinos were more than six times as likely as whites to say they feared being arrested or had anxiety about police questioning them or family members, the report found.
The “Diversity in the D.C. Area” report surveyed residents who lived in one of two types of neighborhoods: “Quadrivial” neighborhoods where white, Asian, black and Latino residents each make up at least 10 percent of the population — and no group constitutes a majority — and neighborhoods where Latinos make up at least 25 percent of residents. The study used Census tracts to determine boundaries.
The Washington metro area, which includes the District, the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia, and a small sliver of West Virginia, is 46 percent white, 25 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic and 10 percent Asian, according to Census Bureau data from 2015.
Some quadrivial neighborhoods included in the survey are Germantown, Gaithersburg and Lorton. Disproportionately Latino neighborhoods include Bladensburg and Annandale, as well as the District’s Brightwood and Columbia Heights neighborhoods.
“D.C. is becoming extremely diverse, and it has neighborhoods that are incredibly diverse,” said Derek Hyra, director of the Metropolitan Policy Center at American University’s School of Public Affairs, which conducted the study. “We know this, but we don’t know how residents in these neighborhoods are perceiving this diversity and how they are functioning in these neighborhoods.”
Residents in quadrivial neighborhoods are more educated than the general population, with two-thirds holding at least a bachelor’s degree. By comparison, 29 percent of residents 25 and older nationwide have at least a bachelor’s, and more than half of such residents in the D.C. region have the same level of education, according to the study.
The survey also found that 95 percent of respondents thought their neighborhood was at least somewhat better than most other neighborhoods in the D.C. area. Almost half of black and Latino respondents thought their neighborhood was “much better” than most, compared with a quarter of white residents and a third of Asians.
But Hyra and Michael D.M. Bader, an American University sociology professor and lead author of the study, said that just because people perceive their neighborhoods as better than others doesn’t mean minorities escape the challenges faced by those in more homogenous neighborhoods.
The report found that more than 75 percent of respondents across all races did a good job of protecting their neighborhoods. Still, fear of arrest or fear that a loved one would be arrested affected more than 50 percent of Hispanic and black residents. Thirteen percent of whites and 29 percent of Asian residents reported the same fear.
Highlighting the distrust, the report found that 4 percent of black residents said they reported a crime or wanted to give information about a crime in the past year, compared with 19 percent of white residents.
“It means that even when we are living in the same neighborhoods, the type of concerns that neighbors share can sometimes be very different, especially given the political climate,” Bader said.
Aaron Goggans, an organizer for Black Lives Matter D.C., said “safety” can mean something different for white and minority residents.
“When white people say ‘safe,’ they mean comfortable,” Goggans said. “And when black people are saying ‘safe,’ they are talking about police response times, their chances of getting robbed and getting shot in their neighborhoods.”
Hyra and Bader said they hope to conduct the study every few years to see if these neighborhoods remain diverse and if the region’s changing demographics affect the results.
“We’ve made progress in opening access to diverse neighborhoods, and the fact that groups are living together and are happy living in neighborhoods together, that’s a happy message,” Bader said.
Scott Clement contributed to this report.