New research suggests that people living in Arlington’s poorest neighborhoods also have the fewest opportunities to lead healthy lives when compared to other communities throughout the entire D.C. region.
A study commissioned by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University show that many of Arlington’s most diverse neighborhoods with the lowest median incomes, such Columbia Heights, Nauck, Douglas Park and Buckingham, also scored the lowest in their measure of “health opportunities” across metropolitan Washington. The results closely mirror a previous study’s findings that people living in many of the same neighborhoods lack economic opportunities as well.
The researchers developed a “Healthy Places Index,” known as HPI, to evaluate not only health outcomes (like life expectancy) in each community, but also to understand whether people have the opportunity to be healthy based on where they live. That includes evaluations of factors like air quality, access to healthcare, housing affordability, the availability of public transportation and education levels.
The study applies that index to neighborhoods across the D.C. area, examining communities using granular Census tract designations to detect patterns within counties and cities in the region. Though the group found that the overall health of the 4.5 million people living in the District and its suburbs is “excellent” and “well above the national average,” they also uncovered “islands of disadvantage” within even wealthy localities like Arlington.
Even though some of the more affluent, higher educated areas of the county rate quite highly in the study’s measure of health opportunities, others rank among the lowest in all of Northern Virginia. The researchers identified the Columbia Heights neighborhood, just off Columbia Pike, as having one of the “the lowest HPI scores in the region,” noting that about 23 percent of adult residents there live in poverty. Buckingham, located along Route 50, also posted poor HPI scores, and the study noted that its residents have a median income of about $38,125 annually.
“The researchers found stark contrasts in socioeconomic and environmental conditions in Northern Virginia, often between neighborhoods separated by only a few miles or blocks,” the VCU academics wrote. “As was observed elsewhere in the region, people of color were disproportionately exposed to adverse living conditions.”
To illustrate those points, the study compared McLean — one of the wealthiest and whitest communities in the area — to Columbia Heights. The former ranked among the top-scoring neighborhoods in the region on the HPI, a far cry from Columbia Heights’ own performance.
“The population in the McLean tract was predominately white (70 percent) and Asian (19 percent), the population in Columbia Heights was largely Hispanic (51 percent) and black (19 percent),” the researchers wrote. “More than half was foreign-born, and most immigrated during 2000-2009.”
While the researchers identify a whole host of factors that could be contributing to such a split, they also stress that it is impossible to ignore the impact of “institutional racism” in understanding why such a divide exists between the races when it comes to health opportunities. They note that discriminatory housing and economic policies mean that people of color are “more likely to live in racially and ethnically segregated neighborhoods that suffer from decades of disinvestment,” which can have a whole host of negative consequences for their health.
“As a result, neighborhoods of color often lack access to affordable high-quality housing, stores that sell healthy foods, green space, clean air and clean water,” the researchers wrote. “These communities are often targets for fast food outlets, tobacco and alcohol marketing and liquor stores. These conditions affect not only the health, economic opportunity, and social mobility of people of color, but they also weaken the health and economy of the entire region.”
Accordingly, the study recommends approaches recognizing that history to officials sitting on the Council of Governments, as they try to craft a response across the region.
“Real solutions require targeted investments in marginalized neighborhoods to improve access to affordable, healthy housing as well as affordable transportation, child care, and health care (e.g., primary care, dental care, behavioral health services),” they wrote. “Everyone benefits from this approach, not only the residents in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, but also the entire regional economy. Economic and racial inequity saps the strength of the economy. Everyone pays a price for inaction: persistent poverty and social isolation fuel discontent, unhealthy behaviors (e.g., drug addiction), crime, and violence.”
(Updated at 6 p.m.) Striking new research reveals that where children are born in Arlington can have a decades-long ripple effect on their futures, with kids in the county’s more ethnically diverse neighborhoods growing up to make less money and end up in jail at higher rates than their counterparts.
The analysis, compiled by the Census bureau and a team of academic researchers, shows that children born to a family in a wealthy, predominantly white North Arlington neighborhood earn tens of thousands of dollars more, on average, than kids from a more diverse, lower income South Arlington neighborhood. Incarceration rates generally follow the opposite pattern.
These effects largely persist regardless of a child’s race, or the income level of their parents, mirroring results researchers found around the country in creating this new “Opportunity Atlas.” The interactive map combines anonymized data on 20 million people born 30 years ago with granular Census tracts, in order to provide a glimpse of the gaps in opportunity across different neighborhoods nationwide.
Researchers are still sorting out the exact reasons behind these disparities — everything from the quality of local schools to an area’s employment rate could help explain the variations. But officials and public policy analysts increasingly view this data as a key way to guide where government intervention might be most needed to lift people out of poverty, particularly when evaluating which neighborhoods have borne the brunt of decades of racially discriminatory policies.
In Arlington, the atlas helps provide concrete examples of how the split in income levels and diversity between the northern and southern halves of the county affect residents of each neighborhood.
For instance, kids born in the Douglas Park Census tract, an area just off Columbia Pike with the largest share of non-white residents in the county as recorded in the 2010 Census, grew up to record an average household income of $36,000, regardless of their race or income level. That figure is the second lowest in the entire county.
Low-income children, defined as those born to families making $27,000 a year or less, in the area grew up to make $33,000 a year. High-income kids, who were born to families making $94,000 a year, grew up to make about $51,000.
In Nauck, a historically black community, children grew up to earn $34,000 a year, the lowest salary in the county.
Children born to low-income families made $30,000 a year, the lowest figure among that cohort in the county. Kids in high-income families there grew up to make $42,000 a year, again the lowest for the income bracket in Arlington.
People in Nauck are also incarcerated at the highest rate in the county — 4.8 percent of the people studied in the area are currently in jail. That includes 6.9 percent of children born to low-income parents and 1.6 percent of those born to high-income families, rates that are both among the highest in the county.
The results are also striking in the High View Park Census tract, which encompasses the historically black Halls Hill neighborhood, which was literally walled off from its white neighbors for decades in the Jim Crow era.
Kids growing up in the area, of all income levels, went on to make about $44,000 a year, roughly the median for the county. Low-income children, however, recorded the third lowest salary among that group in Arlington, at $29,000 per year. High-income kids went on to make about $57,000 per year, much more towards the county’s median. The neighborhood has the second-highest share of incarcerated residents in the county, with 9.2 percent behind bars.
By contrast, children born in the county’s whitest areas tend to grow up to become considerably wealthier, regardless of their family’s income level.
In the county’s Census tract with the lowest share of non-white residents (an area including neighborhoods like Bellevue Forest, Dover Crystal and Woodmont), children grew up to make an average of $68,000, tied for the second highest salary in the county. Low-income kids recorded that same $68,000 average, as did high-income kids.
Similarly, the county’s second whitest Census tract — an area in Northwest Arlington containing neighborhoods like Country Club Hills and Arlingwood — kids grew up to make $80,000, the highest salary in the whole county. Low-income kids eventually made an average of $51,000 per year, while high-income children made it to $70,000 a year.
And, in the vast majority of the county’s whitest areas, incarceration rates were below 1 percent.
Graphic via Opportunity Atlas
Update, July 25 at 4:25 p.m.
County attorney Steve MacIsaac clarified that the county is intervening on behalf of the Census Bureau in a different case than the one originally described in this article. We regret the error.
Arlington County is weighing filing a lawsuit targeting pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis, and intervening in a separate case as well to protect the Census Bureau’s practice of counting undocumented immigrants in population surveys.
The County Board voted unanimously last Wednesday (July 18) to move ahead with the legal action, after consulting with county lawyers behind closed doors.
The county is retaining the services of some outside lawyers to explore the possibility of joining dozens of other localities in suing drug manufacturers over fallout from the opioid crisis. Arlington recorded a 245 percent spike in patients seeking treatment for addiction to drugs like heroin and fentanyl from 2015 to 2017, and any lawsuit would seek to secure damages against pharmaceutical companies involved in flooding the market with prescription drugs that can often lead to addiction.
However, the Board would need to approve the specifics of any opioid lawsuit before the county moves forward with legal action.
The county also plans to lend its support to the Commerce Department in an ongoing federal case, after the state of Alabama mounted a legal challenge to the “resident rule.” The state is looking to ban the Census Bureau from counting undocumented residents in any count of an area’s population, as census data is used to determine boundaries of congressional districts and hand out federal money.
Arlington is joining with a variety of other localities to oppose that move, considering that the county has a large undocumented population. Census data show that Arlington had roughly 29,400 non-citizens living in the county through 2016. That was equivalent to roughly 13 percent of the county’s total population, one of the highest margins in the country.
Arlington Population Up in Latest Estimate — The new annual U.S. Census population estimates are out and Arlington County has added nearly 5,000 people. The estimate of Arlington’s population on July 1, 2017 is is 234,965, according to the Census Bureau website. That’s considerably higher than a recent UVA estimate. The previous Census Bureau estimate was 230,050 on July 1, 2016. [U.S. Census Bureau]
Festival of the Arts to Return — The annual Arlington Festival of the Arts is returning to Clarendon from April 21-22. The outdoor event features more than 100 artists showcasing — and selling — their work. [Facebook]
Standout Athletes of YHS — A recently-completed webpage highlights more than 50 years worth of standout athletes from Yorktown High School. [Yorktown Alums]
Photo courtesy of our local tech guru, Alex Chamandy
A new estimate from the University of Virginia’s Cooper Center pegs Arlington’s population at 239,074 as of mid-2017.
That would make Arlington the fourth fastest-growing locality in Virginia since the 2010 U.S. Census, when Arlington’s population was 207,627. Of the top seven fastest-growing Virginia localities, according to UVA demographers, most are in Northern Virginia.
The following lists the latest population estimate and percent change since 2010 of the top seven on the list.
- Loudoun County — 396,068 (26.8%)
- New Kent County — 21,709 (17.8%)
- Falls Church City — 14,269 (15.7%)
- Arlington County — 239,074 (15.1%)
- Alexandria City — 160,719 (14.8%)
- Fredericksburg City — 27,645 (13.8%)
- Prince William County — 455,990 (13.4%)
The estimate puts the year-over-year population growth in Arlington, from mid-2016 to mid-2017, at 2,383 — about 1 percent.
The UVA estimates are significantly higher than figures cited by Arlington County in its 2017 county profile. The profile says Arlington’s population was estimated at 222,800 as of Jan. 1, 2017, an increase of only 7.3 percent since 2010. The county’s estimates are “based on housing unit counts and residential construction activity.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Arlington’s population at 230,050 as of July 1, 2016. The next official decennial Census count will take place in 2020.
Arlington estimates that the county’s population will reach 278,100 by 2040.
Arlington County ranked number one among similar-sized counties in this year’s Fourth Economy Index, which recognized it for attracting talented people, supporting business growth and creating vibrancy.
The index, which was established in 2012, assesses counties in five areas: investment, talent, sustainability, place and diversity. Arlington won for counties with 150,000-499,999 people, ahead of Chesapeake in Virginia (near Norfolk) and Shawnee County in Kansas (which includes the city of Topeka).
“A vibrant business community, lots of arts and entertainment and low unemployment all contribute to a higher quality of life for this No. 1 community,” the citation reads.
Arlington came in first because of its high scores in place, talent and diversity. The index said Arlington’s location across the river from D.C. makes it a perfect location for people who work there, while its seamless blend of urban areas and quiet, garden-lined streets, provide a fine balance between city life and “neighborhood charm.”
In addition, the index said Arlington’s talent base is high thanks to its many highly-educated residents while its diversity spreads across race, age and ethnicity. It also found that middle-income Arlingtonians spend less on transportation and housing than their national counterparts in most other counties.
“While job growth and investment are good indicators of a community’s progress, they are not enough,” the website reads. “Our continued experience has shown that our analysis must also look at factors that create a foundation for sustained success and resilience.”
The full top 10 for large-sized counties is as follows:
- Arlington County, Virginia
- Chesapeake, Virginia
- Shawnee County, Kansas
- Chittenden County, Vermont
- Pulaski County, Arkansas
- Albany County, New York
- Hampden County, Massachusetts
- Minnehaha County, South Dakota
- Peoria County, Illinois
- Champaign County, Illinois
To analyze counties, the index used data from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development among other sources. A total of 19 data areas are weighted and analyzed for the level of influence they have on a county.
Arlington Population Continues to Rise — The latest Census Bureau estimate of Arlington’s population is 230,050, a 0.9 percent rise over the previous year. [InsideNova]
LaHood to Review WMATA — Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been tapped by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to conduct an independent review of Metro’s “operating, governance, and financial conditions.” The review will “develop recommendations for potential WMATA reforms, including mitigating growth in annual operating costs and sustainable funding.” [Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington Post]
Private Investigators Set Up Shop in Arlington — A group of private investigators is trying to solve the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich last July. The group, which does not have the support of Rich’s family, is working out of a “war room” in Arlington as it tries to piece together clues about the fatal shooting in D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood. [DCist, WJLA]
County Board Hears Complaint About Poo — A resident’s complaint at a County Board meeting, about a homeless man “appropriating” a bus stop in Rosslyn, led to the following sentence in the Sun Gazette: “County-government spokesman Mary Curtius said it was ‘exceedingly rare’ to find human waste at bus stops.” [InsideNova]
Schaeffer’s Favorite Arlington Things — Eric Schaeffer, co-founder and artistic director of Shirlington’s Signature Theatre, recently shared some of his favorite local spots. Among them: French store Le Marche and Irish pub Samuel Beckett’s, both in Shirlington, along with Pupatella pizzeria in Bluemont and P.F. Chang’s in Ballston. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
The estimated percentage of the population ages 25-34 was 26.4 percent in 2015, compared to 28.5 percent in 2012
Meanwhile, a set of just-released census data from the American Community Survey has shed some light on other vital statistics for Arlington.
The data shows the percentage of Arlington residents with health insurance rising, following a national trend attributed to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Here are some notable stats for Arlington included in the most recent census data:
- The median household income in Arlington was $106,768 in 2015, while the mean income was $137,484. Median income was down but mean income up compared to 2014.
- An estimated 94.0 percent of Arlington residents had health insurance in 2015, compared to 88.4 percent in 2012.
- The top three largest employment sectors in Arlington: professional, scientific, management and administrative (27.9 percent); public administration (17.6 percent); educational, healthcare and social services (15.1 percent).
- Total estimated housing units in Arlington was 112,517 in 2015, compared to 106,720 in 2011.
- Estimated number of women who have given birth within the past year: 3,626 in 2015 compared to 3,190 in 2012.
- Estimated percentage of those 18 and over with an income below the poverty level: 7.4 percent in 2015, compared to 9.3 percent in 2012.
At $99,255, Arlington’s median income ranked 7th out of 3,142 counties. However, Arlington ranked lower than some Washington area neighbors: #5 Fairfax County ($106,690), #4 Howard County, Md. ($108,234), #2 Loudoun County ($118,934) and #1 Falls Church ($121,250), which is an independent city but counted as a county by the Census Bureau.
“Metropolitan counties along the East Coast continued to have the highest median household income and lowest poverty in the country,” said the Census Bureau’s Lucinda Dalzell, in a press release. “Northern Virginia alone accounted for about one-fifth of the nation’s 50 highest-income counties.”
Last year, by a different Census Bureau survey, Arlington was ranked third in the nation for median household income, at $100,735. Earlier this fall Arlington ranked as the richest county in America in terms of median family income, at $137,216.
Arlington’s median family income in 2012 was $137,216, putting the county comfortably in first place over the country’s second-richest county, Loudoun County (Va.), at $127,192.
Arlington’s median family income grew by more than $5,000 since 2011, when it stood at $131,890, and more than $10,000 since 2007, when it was $127,179.
Howard County (Md.), is the third-wealthiest county in America at $125,152, according to the Census Bureau, and Fairfax County (Va.) is fourth at $124,831. Montgomery County (Md.) ranks seventh, with a median family income of $113,588. In all, nine D.C. area counties had incomes above $100,000, the highest of any metropolitan area.
Arlington’s income data does come with the caveat of a $10,561 margin of error.
The census data differs from another commonly used ranking, median household income, which placed Arlington third in the nation, well behind Loudoun and Fairfax, based on 2011 data.
Number of Households Growing — The number of households in Arlington grew by one percent over the past year — from 105,667 to 106,717 — a rate twice that of the 0.5 percent household growth in the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. [Sun Gazette]
New Ballston Bars Reviewed — Ballston’s bar scene has “received a shot in the arm over the last two weeks” with the openings of World of Beer and A-Town Bar and Grill, according to a review by Fritz Hahn. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Lime Fresh Signs Clarendon Lease — Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, from the company that brought you Ruby Tuesday, is officially coming to Clarendon. The restaurant is opening one of the first locations outside of Florida in the Clarendon Market Common storefront once occupied by Comfort One Shoes. [Washington Business Journal, Clarendon Culture]
Same-Sex Couples in Arlington — According to the latest U.S. Census numbers, Arlington is home to about 6 percent of Virginia’s same-sex households. There are 1,165 same-sex partner households in Arlington — 835 male and 333 female. The number of same-sex male households has grown 3 percent since 2000, while the number of same-sex female households has grown 16 percent. [Associated Press]
Revamped Playground for Ft. Myer Heights — Kids in Ft. Myer Heights will be getting a renovated playground at Ft. Myer Heights Park. A public meeting is planned next month to discuss the planned renovations. [Ode Street Tribune]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
More Registered Voters Than Residents? — Something here doesn’t add up. There are 14 voting precincts in Arlington where there are more registered voters than voting-age residents, at least according to recent census figures. [Sun Gazette]
New 7-Eleven Coming to the Pike — A new 7-Eleven store is coming to 2330 Columbia Pike, across from the new Siena Park and Penrose Square apartments. The 24-hour convenience store is expected to open in the beginning of 2012. It replaces a former furniture store. [Pike Wire]
On Books and Soldiers — The Arlington Public Library Central Auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street) will be hosting a community book discussion tonight focusing on the military. The discussion, starting at 7:00 p.m., will be led by Georgetown University professor Nancy Sherman, who has also taught ethics at the U.S. Naval Academy. She’ll discuss two books in particular: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and The Good Soldiers by David Finkel. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by Damiec
Examiner Promotes Virginia and Maryland Stereotypes — Maryland is for “white wine and brie” liberals and Virginia is for gun-toting “backwoods” conservatives, according to the Washington Examiner. Residents of each state are reluctant to visit the other because of the “culture clash,” the paper says. [Washington Examiner]
Power Outage in North Arlington — Residents who live along Lee Highway between North Veitch Street and Military Road lost power for a period of time Saturday morning. About 1,360 Dominion customers were affected. The lights were back on by 11:00 a.m.
Arlington Population Rises — The latest census figures put Arlington’s official population at 207,627, nearly 10 percent higher than the county’s population in 2000. Arlington’s population growth is slightly below that of the state, which experienced 13 percent population growth between 2000 and 2010. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Man HiJacks Bus — Investigators say an Arlington man hijacked a bus near Charlotte, N.C. on Thursday, claiming he had a gun and a bomb in a bag. No one was injured, but it did scare everyone on board. [WRAL]
Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White
Arlington Has Biggest Income Jump in U.S. — The 2010 Census data is out, and Arlington had the largest jump in median income among municipalities in the United States. Median household income rose by $12,705 between 2000 and 2009. Two other Northern Virginia localities — Alexandria city and Loudoun County — were also among the biggest income gainers. [Bloomberg]
Hispanic Population Falling in Arlington — While the Hispanic population is on the rise in many parts of Virginia, new census data shows that the Hispanic population in Arlington has actually shrunk. The Hispanic population in Arlington fell 11 percent between 2000 and 2009. Arlington’s Asian population, meanwhile, jumped by 21 percent, while the non-Hispanic white population rose by 16 percent. [Washington Post]
Alexandria Happy With HOT Lanes Decision — Alexandria’s mayor says his city “has always and will always be opposed to” High Occupancy Toll lanes. Thus VDOT’s decision to scrap its plan to build HOT lanes on I-395 came as good news for Alexandria. The project was canceled largely thanks to a $1.5 million lawsuit funded by Arlington taxpayers. [Washington Examiner]
Defense Attorney Enters Race to Become Top Prosecutor — Defense attorney David Deane has officially announced his candidacy for Commonwealth’s Attorney in Arlington. Deane will be challenging Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos for the Democratic nomination. Stamos was recently endorsed by the Arlington Coalition of Police and the Falls Church Police Association. The top prosecutor job is being vacated by the retiring Richard Trodden. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Mattron