Recently released 2010 census data show that the population of individuals of black or African-American descent in D.C. has dropped 11 percent since the year 2000, representing a major change in the District’s status as a predominantly black city.


About 51 percent of D.C. residents are black or African-American, compared to 70 percent in the 1970’s, according to data publicized by the U.S. Census Bureau Thursday.


The  District’s population also increased by nearly 30,000 residents since 2000. Associate professor of history Maurice Jackson said that the nation’s capital is going through changes as a result of the rise in population, specifically saying that whites are moving into traditionally black neighborhoods.


“Ten years ago you could get on the 16th Street bus, and from here to 16th Street the bus would be lily white. When you get to the other side the bus would be ‘coal black.’ Now it’s not the same because the white population has moved all over the place, where people would not have moved 10 years ago,” Jackson said.


The number of African-American and black residents has been decreasing since the 1970s, and Jackson said that people are leaving because they have to, rather than because they want to.


“It is quite simple: housing, jobs, education, health care,” he said.

These necessities are often easier for white families to acquire than for black ones, he said. According to Jackson, the average family income for whites in D.C. is $101,000 per year, while the average black family in the District makes only $39,000 annually.


“The number one concern the rich and poor have alike is education and the welfare of their children. Many people in D.C. are moving out for free education in the suburbs,” Jackson said. “It all goes back to economics.”


Jackson said there are also other causes for the changing demographics such as the longer average life span of the white population in comparison to that of blacks, as well as the range of jobs available to each group and the training involved in obtaining those jobs.


“In service-industry jobs (nursing, pharmaceuticals) few African-Americans have the training for them,” Jackson said.


Associate professor of public policy Mark Rom predicted that there will be an even smaller percentage of black and African American residents in D.C. by the next census.


“This trend has been occurring for a while now, the outflow of blacks often moving for reasons of safety or more space, cheaper housing in the suburbs. This outflow of blacks and inflow of whites is probably going to continue.”


Rom also predicted changes in public policy stemming from demographic change.


“When you have one demographic of the African-Americans declining and whites growing, Latinos growing and Asians growing, that shifts some of the political balance of power to those groups. We may see a more diversity of candidates [in local elections]. Candidates who will be successful in the district will need to be able to appeal across racial lines,” Rom said.

The original version of this story stated that Jackson said ” …  from here to 16th Street the bus would be literally white.” He said “…  from here to 16th Street the bus would be lily white.”

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