Recently we reported that the total number of children in D.C. has been increasing since 2010 after about fifteen years of decline. Since 2008 the increase has been driven by young children under 6, and in 2012 the number of school-aged children (aged 6 to 17 years) began to increase as well.
Now we look at how the number of children in different income groups has been changing. We define lower-income as households making less than $50,000; middle-income as households with incomes between $50,000 – $150,000; and higher-income as households making over $150,000
Both higher-income households and lower-income households are driving the boom in young children under 6. The average number of children in both income groups increased between the two five-year periods for which we have reliable data: 2006 to 2010 and 2010 to 2014. The higher-income group, though, grew more.
A different story emerges for school-aged children. For children between the ages of 6 and 11, there was a net increase only among higher-income kids. The number of lower-income and middle-income children in this age group declined slightly, but because the declines are small and the data has a sampling error, we are less confident in these trends. (We discuss the reliability of the data at the end of the post.)
For older children between the ages of 12 and 17, the average number of lower-income kids declined between the two five-year periods that ended in 2010 and 2014. The data shows a slight increase in the average number of higher-income children and a slight decrease in the average-number of middle-income children, but we have less confidence in these trends since the changes are small.
Lower-income children still outnumber middle- and higher-income children of all ages. But the higher-income group appears to be catching up with the middle-income group, especially among younger children.
Is this proof of gentrification? The general trends suggest yes. When we look at children of all ages, only the higher-income group has, on net, added children. The total number of lower-income and middle-income children has remained about the same between the two five-year periods that ended in 2010 and 2014. This means that higher-income children now make up a bigger portion of all children in the city. But it could be that because we’re looking at five-year groupings of data, we’re missing year-to-year trends that could show more nuanced trajectories for children in different income groups. It’s quite possible, for instance, that the number of school-aged lower-income children has been increasing the past few years, but losses in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s have outweighed recent gains. Or it could be that the number of school-aged lower-income children has not begun to increase yet, but will soon, following a trajectory similar to that of higher-income children.
What exactly is this data?
Our data comes from the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year data sets for 2006-2010 and 2010-2014 for the District of Columbia. We could not use ACS 1-year data sets because the small sample size makes them unreliable for this analysis.
Errors for each of the data points in our graph range from +/- 6% to +/- 11% for 90% confidence intervals. For the bolded lines in our graph, trends (population loss or decrease) still hold even if we assume the largest errors (at 90% CI) in the least favorable direction. For the non-bolded lines, trends reverse when we factor in the largest errors in the least favorable direction.
Household incomes are in 2014 dollars.