Thursday, June 30, 2016

Demography and Urban Politics

Like several other big American cities, Washington, DC no longer has a black majority:
Over the past 15 years, the District has experienced both an exodus of black residents and an influx of whites. Young, well-educated whites are moving into once minority, often depopulated and dilapidated neighborhoods, where new condo and rental apartment construction is booming.

The black share of Washington’s population fell from a high of 71.1 percent in 1970 to 48.3 percent as of July 2015. The white share has grown from 27.7 percent in 1970 to 44.1 percent, if Hispanics who identify themselves as white are included. If only non-Hispanic whites are counted, the white share has grown to 36.1 percent.

Hispanics, who are likely to hold the balance of political power between whites and blacks, have grown from 2.1 percent of the District’s population in 1970 to 10.6 percent in 2015. Asian-Americans have gone from 0.7 percent to 4.2 percent over the same period.
The article I am citing goes on from there to wonder whether DC will soon elect a white mayor. I think that is the wrong question. After all the city did just elect a mayor, Muriel Bowser, who won 63% in the wealthiest, whitest ward but only 28% in the three poorest, blackest wards. I doubt the city will ever again elect a mayor like Marion Barry, whose troubles with the FBI over corruption and drugs only made him seem more authentic to the voters in the poor wards that were his base. In a more diverse city, ethnic identity politics probably won't work. What will work is urban liberalism that combines concern for poor voters and minority issues with a drive for reform and "good government." I think DC is a long, long way from electing a Rudy Giuliani sort of figure.

And while black voters may soon lose control of Washington, black flight to the suburbs means they make up 65.4% of the population in adjacent Prince George's County, Maryland, which has more people than DC (910,000 vs. 670,000) and an actual representative in Congress.

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