- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

The number of D.C. families living in poverty increased over the last decade even as the number of households with "very high" overall incomes went up, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The number of families living below the poverty line grew by 3.4 percent from 16,453 in 1989 to 19,365 in 1999, according to the data, which are based on answers to a long-form questionnaire filled out by roughly one-in-six city residents during the 2000 Census.
In 1989, the poverty line was an annual salary of $12,575 for a family of four (two adults and two children); in 1999, it was $16,895.
Households with a "very high" income defined as those making $150,000 or more in 1989 and $200,000 or more in 1999, allowing for inflation increased by 67.2 percent, from 7,800 families to about 11,600 families during the 10-year period.
"Even though we're talking about relatively small numbers, that's a big increase," said Campbell Gibson, a Census Bureau analyst.
The Census Bureau has previously released information on population and housing trends for the District, Maryland and Virginia, and the new data are available with those figures on the Census Bureau's Web site (www.census.gov). The data tables show what are largely minimal differences from 1990 to 2000 in some social characteristics of D.C. residents, such as marital status.
But they show a striking increase in the education levels of the nearly 400,000 persons over the age 25 living in the city.
Nearly 5 percent more of the over-25 population had achieved a high school diploma or higher in 2000 than had 10 years earlier. In 1990, 73.1 percent had done so but by 2000, the percentage was up to 77.8 an increase of about 18,000 persons.
"Its a sizable increase, but what strikes me just as much or more is that the percent with bachelor's degrees or higher has gone up by about 6.1 percentage points, from 33.3 percent up to 39.1 percent," Mr. Gibson said.
While the increases reflect the general growth in education levels around the country, Mr. Gibson said that the change could be the result of the deaths of elderly, less educated people.
"As the elderly population dies and is replaced by this 25-and-over group who experienced more education when they were growing up, it leads to the overall increase in education," he said.
The census figures also show a rapid growth of the foreign-born population living in the District.
Despite the city's smaller overall population it fell from 606,900 to 572,059 during the last 10 years the number of foreign-born residents increased from 9.7 percent in 1990 to 12.9 percent in 2000.
About half the population of foreign-born residents is made up of people from Latin America. Census officials noted the growing number of people speaking a language other than English in their homes from about 71,000 in 1990 to 90,000 in 2000.
Mr. Gibson said more than anything else, the statistic shows a growing bilingual section of the city's population.
The new census data also show a change in the number of D.C. residents who regularly take advantage of public transportation. It's on the decline.
In 1990, 36.6 percent of the overall population used public transportation subway, city buses, even taxi cabs during their work commute. The percentage fell to 33.2 percent in 2000.
The trend has baffled census officials.
"You would think public transportation would be a fairly accessible or reasonable option for people living directly in the city," Mr. Gibson said.

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