Report: Median Income for Black D.C. Residents Drops

by: Shantella Y. Sherman Special to the AFRO ssherman@afro.com
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The U.S. Census Bureau released a vital, and troubling, examination of the nation’s economy, using new statistics on income, poverty, health insurance and more than 40 other areas through the agency’s American Community Survey.  Of gravest concern, according to the Census report, was the sharp decrease in income and increase in poverty among Blacks. There was a $5,000 drop in income among Blacks in D.C. alone.

“The American Community Survey allows us to track incremental changes across our nation on how the nation’s people live and work, year-to-year,” Census Bureau Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division Chief David Waddington said in a statement. “It’s our country’s only source of small area estimates for social and demographic characteristics. These estimates help people, businesses and governments throughout the country better understand the needs of their populations, the markets in which they operate and the challenges and opportunities they face.”

But what does it mean for the District, when, in addition to losses in property, educational gains and businesses, there also exists a financial shift among the same population?

“We are seeing, even among well-paid Black families – a struggle to make ends meet.  This means that with less disposable income, more Blacks are spending less, saving less, and therefore, not as fluid financially as they were just a year before,” Howard University business administration graduate, Sharif Muhammad, told the AFRO.  “This may be the result of skyrocketing housing in the area, or even a slowed job market, which means that we simply have to adapt and curve spending to keep afloat.”

The D.C. median income from 2015 to 2016—dropped from $76,233 to $75,506—though increases were tracked in other urban areas.  Citing growing racial inequities between White families and those of Blacks and Latinos in D.C., the report shows that even as White families show a median income of more than $120,000, Blacks showed a median income of only $38,000.

“I put little stock into these types of reports,” Ward 8 resident Briana Michaels told the AFRO.  “This report makes it look like Black people are stupid about their money and hint at racial inequalities, but refuse to report on the systemic racism in hiring, education, housing, and banking that will keep these numbers moving in decline.  How do you under-educate people so they can only get hourly jobs and then force them to pay thousands of dollars a month in rent that you know they don’t have?”

Poverty rates in the District are set by the rate of $19,000 a year for a three-person household—accounting for nearly 28 percent of the city’s population – most of whom are Black, according to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

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