By Ryan Velez
The nation’s capital has experienced an economic boom lately, but it seems to be happening all too much while longtime residents aren’t getting to reap the benefits. The Washington Post says that a recent study on African-American employment, population, and housing trends shows that it is the Black community here that is getting left behind.
The Georgetown University report, which pulled data from several recent studies, found that more than half of all new jobs in the District between 2010 and 2020 will require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, only 12.3 percent of Black residents in 2014 graduated from college. There is also a massive disparity in average net worth, from $284,000 for a white family to $3,500 for a Black one.
“It’s not a pretty picture,” Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said before the findings were presented to city leaders and residents.
Other studies have created a similar image. The city is becoming wealthier, leading younger and more affluent residents to move in. As a result, house prices go up and longtime Black residents are forced to leave. For a city once known as “Chocolate City,” the district has dropped below 50 percent for the first time in 60 years.
“One of the contributions of this report is how much it puts in one place both the history of the city and redlining and school segregation, and connecting it to how those impacts play out today,” said Ed Lazere, executive director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, whose work is extensively cited in the study. “That half of all black households in D.C. have assets of $3,500 or less — that’s virtually nothing, and it’s probably a reflection that housing discrimination years ago kept them from owning homes.”
One historical issue here dates back to the 1968 riots. Many businesses moved to the suburbs after this. In addition, many Black residents were “redlined.” This is the practice of banks and loaning institutions refusing to lend to business owners in communities with large minority populations.
“Aspiring black business people were unable to fill the vacuum simply because they could not secure a line of credit to open and maintain small businesses, stores, dry cleaners, restaurants and other outlets,” the report states.
What can be done? Maurice Jackson, a Georgetown history professor and chairman of the city’s Commission on African American Affairs, says that it begins with meeting job demands. He places an emphasis on the need for education and training programs across D.C.