Call it the gentrification generation: Census statistics show that the number of children in the District is increasing, but the greatest concentration of children has moved from east of the Anacostia River to neighborhoods dominated by young professionals, such as Petworth.
“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,” the Office of the Chief Financial Officer says in its District, Measured blog. “Since 2011, we do not see the exodus of children from the city. But they now live in different neighborhoods.”
The number of children in the District hit a 20-year low in 2010, with 101,340 counted, according to census data analyzed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation — a child welfare research foundation. By 2014, that number had jumped to 115,305.
The trend follows an overall population boom that started several years earlier in the District, which today has more than 670,000 residents.
“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,” the blog says.
The increased child population has been shifting from neighborhoods east of the Anacostia to more gentrified areas such as Petworth, Brightwood and Crestwood in Northwest.
To understand where children are living, the CFO used the five-year summaries from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which include data at the census tract level and cluster neighborhoods.
“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 blog says.
From 2010 to 2014, the number of children living east of the Anacostia River was 1,280 fewer than the five-year period from 2006 to 2010, the CFO found.
Eastland Gardens and Kenilworth, both east of the Anacostia River, had a 50 percent decline in the number of children who lived there in the period from 2010 to 2014.
The CFO called it “a continuing trend for these neighborhoods.”
The number of children in the River Terrace/Benning/Greenway/Dupont Park cluster — also east of the river — declined by one-third.
By contrast, the gentrifying Takoma/Manor Park/Brightwood Park cluster of neighborhoods has added more than 1,000 children from 2010 to 2014.
The boom was even bigger in the Brightwood Park/Crestwood/Petworth cluster, which added more than 2,000 children.
Still, Brenda Donald, deputy mayor for health and human services, said the vast amount of social services for children are being allocated east of the Anacostia River.
“When we look at our social services, it’s really more aligned with socioeconomic indicators,” Ms. Donald said.
About three-quarters of the city’s foster children come from east of the river, with 56 percent of foster children are in Ward 8 and about 20 percent are in Ward 7, she said. The next closest is Ward 5, where about 7 percent of the city’s foster children live.
Ms. Donald did say that if the number of children in poorer neighborhoods drops enough, the city might start spending less money east of the Anacostia — but that could take a long time.
“It’s not on the horizon,” she said.
Meanwhile, the city has made “significant investments” in the public school system to ensure the increase in the number of children doesn’t leave some without help, said Shana Bartley, director of programs for D.C. Action for Children, a nonprofit focused on improving the quality of life for the District’s youngest residents.
“We know that many of our decision-makers have been following the population trends to ensure that these systems are prepared to support an increasing number of children,” Ms. Bartley said.
But more can be done, she said, as the District faces capacity challenges in the early care and education space.
“We need more high-quality child care available as we see continued growth in the numbers of infants and toddlers in our city,” she said.