D.C.’s Black Majority to End in 2014

Given demographic trends since 2000, the District of Columbia will no longer have a Black majority somewhere around 2014. That’s what I found after completing a simple projection using U.S. Census population data from the 1990 and 2000 census, and 2006 and 2007 American Community Survey population estimates. No matter the approach (trends since 1990 or 2000, projecting population numbers or percentages), every projection (using the best fit line) found somewhere around 2014 would be the turning point when D.C. would enter a new racial era where no major group could claim a majority.

Since 1990, the Black share of the D.C. population has fallen 11.2%. That decline was made up by increases in four other categories: White (6.2%), Asian (1.2%), other (2.2%), and two or more races (1.6%). The U.S. Census Bureau allowed respondents to select multiple races for the first time in 2000, and asks separate questions for race and ethnicity. Over the same time period, the percent reporting Hispanic ethnicity has increased 2.9%.

Here is the Census data, with projections for 2010 and 2014 calculated from the trends since 2000 only:

DC Population by Race

My projection finds the Hispanic population relatively slowly growing. But unlike the Black and White population, this group may be subject to unique external influences such as immigration policy and global economic patterns that may reduce the validity of this projection.

Hispanic Population

A couple comments about these numbers. First, they show relatively gradual and ongoing demographic shifts, not abrupt change that most seem to assume is happening. Despite massive investments in a tiny majority of the city’s neighborhoods, D.C. only recently stabilized its population, let alone began to add significant population. Second, since 1990 the city has lost 77,958 Blacks but only gained 30,665 Whites. Collectively, the groups other race, two or more races, and Asian gained almost as many over the same period, 28,979. Overall, from 1990 to 2007 the city shrank by 18,608 people. The declining Black majority thus has three main causes: Black flight, growing White population, AND growing other racial categories.

Here’s the full table, including 2010 projections based on patterns since 2000:

1990 2000 2006 2007 2010
Black 399,604 343,312 322,105 321,646 310,613
White 179,667 176,101 200,395 210,332 221,657
American Indian 1,466 1,713 1,903 1,172 1,373
Asian 11,214 15,189 19,827 18,066 20,739
Other Race 14,949 21,950 28,127 27,591 30,898
Two Or More 0 13,446 8,970 9,485 10,833

Obviously, when the shift occurs it will have profound effects on the city. While I will refrain from making a judgment about what it will mean overall, I hope the analysis above shows it’s not primarily caused by any one factor, but several.

> NYTimes: “Washington’s Black Majority is Shrinking”
> W. Post: “D.C. May Be Losing Status As a Majority-Black City”

Author: Rob Goodspeed


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  3. What’s up with those “two or more races” numbers bouncing up and down? I understand the category didn’t exist in 1990, but the 2000-2006 drop seems odd and leads to a strange decrease in the 2007-2014 projections.

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