Poor Neighborhoods In DC Missing Out On The New Businesses

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The District of Columbia has experienced an economic boom over the past few years, but the city’s poor residents are missing out on the gravy train, according to a new study.

The study, released by the Urban Institute, an economic think tank funded primarily by the federal government, shows that the number of new businesses in the nation’s capital exploded over the past 15 years, but in the city’s poorest neighborhoods the number has actually dropped.


Despite being relatively equal in terms of population, wards seven and eight, which are east of the Anacostia river and have missed out on most of the development seen in the city’s core, contain less than half the retail and food establishments seen in the city’s other six wards.


Wards seven and eight are also missing out on the jobs that come with those retail and food establishments, which are generally held by entry-level and low skilled employees.


The district has long been known as a city with a huge income disparity between its wealthiest and its poorest residents. In 2012 and 2013, DC ranked fifth among the 50 largest states in income inequality, with its top 10 percent of earners making more than six times what those in the bottom 10 percent make.

Washington, D.C., is also one of the most racially segregated cities in the country.

The neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River are made up of an overwhelmingly black population, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of the neighborhoods have black populations well over the 90 percent mark.

On the flipside, the affluent white neighborhoods on the upper Northwest side of the city have white populations around the 90 percent mark.

The solution to this disparity in wealth and retail access is unclear, according to the study’s authors.

“Many people will argue that businesses won’t enter these underserved areas until residents have adequate disposable income to spend. But it is difficult for residents to improve their incomes until jobs are available and accessible,” the study reads.

The authors suggest using transit to create equal access to jobs and requiring developers to ensure that existing residents gain from development deals, such as requiring that a certain number of employees live in the neighborhood being developed as possible solutions.

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Josh Fatzick