Kids in the neighborhood: The District has more children, but they are not where they used to be

After many years of decline, the total number of children in the District started to increase beginning 2011.

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The turnaround in the overall population had happened earlier: the resident population bottomed out in 1998, remained flat for another eight years, and then it grew, and fast, especially since 2008, when we began adding over 10,000 net new residents each year. As we have shown here, most of the newcomers had been singles without children, who started replacing the families who had left the city. Only since 2011, the number of children began to grow, and in the last four years, the child population has grown at a faster rate than the adult population.

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Separating children under the age of 6 and school-age children (ages 6-17) reveals differences in population trends.  The numbers for the younger children started recovering much earlier: the first positive numbers we see date back to 2005 and the growth has been steady since 2008 for this group. Among the older kids, however, the population slump began later than the younger kids (roughly 2001, compared to 1995 for children under 6), but it also recovered much later. So when we look at longer-term trends, we see that today we still have 3,500 fewer school-age children than we had in 1990, whereas we have 6,000 more children under the age of 6.

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The familiar story we often hear—young people who moved into the city in early 2000s leave once their children hit school age—might be coming to an end.  Since 2011, we do not see—on net—the exodus of children from the city. But they now live in different neighborhoods.

To see the shift in where families live, we use the five-year summaries from the American Community Survey, which include data at the census tract level.  We use data from the 2010-14 summary, which combines five years of data and provides an average.  We then compare these to the 2006-10 data. Because the data are averages for five years, they don’t capture year-to-year variations.  For example, the five-year data summary does not show the recent growth in the number of school-age children, as it includes two years of decline (2010 and 2011), which overpower the three years of growth (2012, 2013 and 2014).  (But five-year-summaries are our only choice for this analysis. Because census tracts are small, the annual data are very unreliable; ACS does not even publish them.  Adding five years of data together makes things a bit more certain, but the error terms could still be large.)

We begin with where the children live. The map below shows the number of children in each neighborhood for the five-year period that ended in 2014. Most children are found in residential neighborhoods outside of downtown, especially in the neighborhoods just east of Rock Creek Park and at the southeastern edge of the city. The south east neighborhoods are among those that have the highest share of children in their populations: 30 percent in the Congress Heights, Bellevue, Washington Highlands cluster according to the 2010 census, and 34 percent in the Douglas and Shipley Terrace neighborhoods (though these numbers are well below their historical levels).  In contrast the share of children is under 20 percent in every neighborhood west of the park (the average for the city is 17 percent), except for Chevy Chase, where it is 23 percent (and increasing), 15 percent in Columbia Heights (where it is decreasing) and 20 percent in the Petworth cluster (where it has held somewhat steady). image016.png

Here is the interactive map.

How has this map changed since 2006? Below we show the change in the number of kids in each neighborhood in the last five years compared to the 2006-2010 period. You can see that that neighborhoods around the 16th Street and Georgia Avenue corridors north of Columbia Heights have attracted many families with children. The Takoma, Manor Park, and Brightwood Park cluster have added over 1,000 children, second only to the extremely popular Brightwood Park, Crestwood, Petworth neighborhood cluster, which added over 2,000 children. Capitol Hill now has fewer children (but only a modest decline of 100).   There are 1,280 fewer children east of the river now, but when broken down by neighborhood clusters, we see that five out of the 11 neighborhood clusters added more children (the biggest gains were in the Garfield Heights, Fort Stanton and Knox Hill cluster, which has seen lower vacancy rates and increasing home ownership).  Eastland Gardens and Kenilworth, on the other hand, lost half the children who lived there between 2010 and 2014 (a continuing trend for these neighborhoods), and the River Terrace, Benning, Greenway, Dupont Park cluster, which has been losing housing units and seeing increasing vacancy rates, also lost one third of the kids in the neighborhood.

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Here is the interactive version of this map.

Families with young children make very different choices about where they live compared to families with school-age children.  They are more likely to move to the city, or stay in the city after having a baby, and could settle in any one of the neighborhoods. The map on the left below shows that one finds more children under the age of 6 in almost every neighborhood, but especially in the area that borders Rock Creek Park: neighborhoods along the 16th Street and Georgia Avenue corridors,  from Colombia Heights to Takoma Park, added  2,758 children under the age of 6. This is over a third of the net increase for this cohort. The notable exceptions to the growth are the neighborhoods that lie on the north west of the park  and a few neighborhoods east of the river, especially the River Terrace, Benning, Greenway and Dupont Park cluster. It is possible that young families are being priced out west of the park. Or perhaps, young parents are staying in the neighborhoods they lived in before they had kids.

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Here is the interactive map.

Families with school-age children are pickier about where they settle. Neighborhoods north and west of downtown are adding more school-age children, neighborhoods that lie to the south and east of downtown continue bleeding.  There are more school-age children west of the river, but this is possibly aging-in-place as children who are included in the 0-5 group in the 2006-2010 data summary migrated to the school-age group in the 2010-2014 summary. Neighborhoods west of the park added 1,688 school-aged children. In comparison, the Brighwood Park, Crestwood, and Pethworth cluster, just by itself, added another 1,298. Columbia Heights, another strong destination for families with young children, cannot appear to hold on to the families with older children.  The cluster that holds Columbia Heights and Mt. Pleasant lost 574 children between the ages of 6 and 17. This is also true for the Brookland, Brantwood, and Langton cluster.

The biggest declines are in the neighborhoods east of the river, which collectively lost 2,654 school-age children. Losses were greatest in the neighborhoods along the northern border with Maryland.  The neighborhoods in these clusters, similar to the south east neighborhoods, used to have very high concentration of children but have been losing them since 1980s. For example 35 percent of the Eastland Gardens and Kenilworth’s population are children, down from 39 percent in 2000. In the Deanwood, Burrville, Grant Park, Lincoln Heights, and Fairmont Heights cluster, the number of children in 2010 was half of what it was in 1980. This neighborhood is now adding younger children, but not yet, school-age children. And given housing prices in the city and household incomes east of the river, most families who left these neighborhoods have likely moved out, and did not relocate in another neighborhood in DC.

The population dynamics across neighborhoods provide yet another picture of gentrification and where we are most likely to find it.  The city’s most expensive neighborhoods (when it comes to housing) are holding on to the school-age children but are not able to add young families. While east of the river continues to have the highest concentration of children, if trends continue, neighborhoods near the 16th Street and Georgia Avenue corridors could claim this distinction soon. Neighborhoods east of the river are adding younger children, but rapidly losing school-age children, and on the net losing families.

What exactly is this data?

There are 39 neighborhood clusters in the District, and unlike wards or census tracts, they are not drawn to be of similar size. Some are very small, others are large and densely populated. For example, the Brightwood Park, Crestwood, Petworth neighborhood cluster has the greatest number of children (8452), but it also has many adults, so the share of children in its population is only 20 percent.

We compile the neighborhood data from the five-year ACS data summaries, which include census-tract level data, using the tract-to-neighborhood cluster mapping from neighborhoodinfodc.org.

Data on child population is from kidscount.org.

 

Household formation and home ownership in the District: millennials and Gen Xers are dominant forces of change

Compared to the rest of the nation, homeownership is lower across all age groups in the District.  The largest differences are for millennials and while the gap narrows by age, it never fully closes. Millennial heads of households are nearly twice more likely to own the homes they live in across the entire nation compared to the District. There could be many reasons for this: high prices in the District, or delayed family formation for the millennials.image002

We already know that the prices in the District are high, and there is some evidence that millennials are delaying forming households. Here is how we see it: The recent population boom in the District can be largely attributed to inflow of young people. Of the nearly 75,000 net increase in resident population between 2000 and 2013 (the latest year for which age breakdown of the population is available), 51,000 come from those between the ages of 20 and 34 (comparable to today’s millennials who were between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2014). This group now constitutes 32 percent of the total population compared to 27 percent in 2000.

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However, millennials of 2014 are not forming households as fast as their comparable age group did back in 2000 (today’s Gen-Xers). Those under the age of 34 added more households to the District compared to older groups between 2000 and 2013, but each net increase in resident population in this age group resulted in a net increase of 0.5 new households headed by a similarly aged person. In contrast, those between the ages of 35 and 55 added about 3,000 new residents, but more than 17,300 new households. That is an increase of 5.6 households for one new resident from this age group.

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Homeownership plays a role in this dynamic. For the young people under the age of 34, homeownership rates increased between 2000 and 2005, and suffered since then, first through the great recession and once again since 2011. This probably has to do with steep increases in home prices beginning early 2000s. In contrast, those between the ages of 35 and 54 defied the Great Recession, increasing their ownership rates by more than 4 percentage points (just as comparison, ownership rates for this age group declined by 6 percentage points since the great recession across the entire nation).

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This is yet another picture of gentrification. We sometimes think of gentrification as something driven by young people. They move in, drive up rents and force low-income families out.  This data suggest, however, that the changing profiles of Gen Xers might be another key driver of socioeconomic changes in the District.  The dynamics of population for those between the ages of 35 and 54 suggest a great churn, with a small net increase in population but a large increase in household formation and homeownership, suggesting that the newcomers in this age-group are probably wealthier than those who leave.

What exactly is this data? Population data by age groups is from the U.S. Census. Homeownership and income data are extracts from the Current Population Survey data maintained by Miriam King, Steven Ruggles, J. Trent Alexander, Sarah Flood, Katie Genadek, Matthew B. Schroeder, Brandon Trampe, and Rebecca Vick. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Current Population Survey: Version 3.0. [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010. The post uses the generation definitions from Pew Research Center.

Who stays in the District? Who leaves?

Recently we released a study by my colleagues Ginger Moored and Lori Metcalf on whether first-time parents leave the city at rates faster than the rest of D.C. residents, and if this behavior has changed over time. Today, we are releasing another study on what kind of economic or demographic characteristics play a role in residents’ decisions to leave or stay.

We tracked the behavior of D.C. residents who filed income taxes for the first time in 2004. We found the following:

  • The District’s population is transient. Only 23 percent of the tax filers who first filed in 2004 remained on the tax rolls in 2012.
  • People tend to stay if there is a change in the family structure. Singles tend to leave and those who change their filing status, for example, because of a marriage, tend to stay.
  • Family dynamics matter beyond marriage. We have shown elsewhere that the first child plays an important role in the decision to move out of the city. A second or a third child increases the probability that families will stay.
  • The District attracts high-income residents. Among those who were in the highest income quintile when they arrived in the city in 2004, 41 percent were still found on the tax rolls. Only a quarter of filers who were in the lowest income quintile, however, were still on the tax rolls in 2012.

Read the paper for more...