- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2011

Months after the District’s “Chocolate City” moniker was melted by census figures showing that blacks’ share of the population fell to half as the white population reached one-third, detailed numbers released Thursday show that among young adults, whites outnumber those of all other races combined.

The new white residents are breeding, quite literally, another group, the numbers show: babies. With widespread gentrification in many parts of the city entering the better part of a decade, those who moved here as recent college graduates are beginning to have children and are increasingly staying put.

“Some of the things that made the neighborhood appealing for a young not-married couple, then a married couple here are still appealing to parents,” said Robin Leon, 34, as she walked her 10-month-old in a stroller near 14th and D streets Southeast.

Among 70,000 residents between 25 and 29 years old, 51 percent are white and 30 percent are black, census statistics released Thursday show, a higher percentage than in both Fairfax and Montgomery counties. Whites outnumber blacks of every age between 22 and 34 years in the District.

Though three-quarters of children 10 and up in the District are black, among those younger than 5, nearly a quarter are white, while 56 percent are black and 13 percent are Hispanic.

What remains to be seen is how many of the wealthy young adults who have embraced the District as their new home will stay when their children age. In the past decade, the District added 10,000 women and 7,000 men between 25 and 29, overwhelmingly white, and increasing numbers have remained and sent children to public school. The majority of these children, despite optimistic pledges by their parents, are just now approaching school age.

“The schools are still the big question mark, but people are fleeing the scene in smaller numbers, and that’s kind of cool,” said Mrs. Leon, who has lived in the area for three years and moved to a home five blocks from her old one Tuesday. “I would love to put him in public school. But as more and more people are staying, you also don’t want to be the guinea pig.”

If the District has become more family-friendly, it also has become a city of fewer families. While the number of very young children increased by 10 percent, many longtime residents have left. D.C. now has a quarter fewer children from 5 to 9 than it did a decade ago, and 16 percent fewer children 10 to 14. The number of families of all sizes except two-person households declined.

Included in the census was a decrease in large families in poorer neighborhoods, many headed by single mothers. There was a 15 percent decrease in single moms compared with the 2000 census, outpacing an 11 percent drop in the number of black residents.

Meanwhile, enthusiastic young parents have taken it on themselves to make neighborhood public schools places they want to send their children.

At Watkins Elementary, an initiative to teach kids about growing and cooking fresh food would have left them heating on hot plates when school starts next month — the only supplies provided by the school system. That’s when parents raised more than $60,000 to pay for a dedicated teaching kitchen.

“Schools are still the huge talk of the playground. It’s crazy, block to block,” Mrs. Leon said.

Technology has helped coalesce a community of young parents, most of whom are white.

“Theres a listserv called Moms on the Hill where you can make playdates,” said mother Ebelyn Live, 27. “We’re going to try to stay here. We have friends here, and you don’t need a car.”

Transformed are entire neighborhoods, with young whites making up 40 percent of thousands of residents of the Navy Yard in Southeast, a few hundred yards from the Anacostia neighborhood — a rate equal to Georgetown.

Now, raising a family in the city that new arrivals have come to love is the natural course of evolution as the gentrifiers of the mid-2000s mature.

“We definitely don’t want to flee to suburbia,” said Mrs. Leon. “That’s like the last resort.”

• Luke Rosiak can be reached at lrosiak@washingtontimes.com.

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