“The District’s population is transient. Only 23 percent of the 42,257 tax filers who first filed in 2004 remained on the tax rolls in 2012”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jordan Barab

From an email:

“I thought you’d like to know that the District of Columbia’s Office of Revenue Analysis is starting a new blog, District, Measured, www.districtmeasured.com. The blog will feature our research on economic trends shaping the city.

Our first post features research on which residents stay in D.C. and which leave. Recently, two of my colleagues wrote on whether first-time parents are leaving the city at rates similar to the past and showed that new parents today tend to leave the city at rates similar to the new parents of early 2000s.

In this new study, we ask: what kinds of economic and demographic characteristics explain a District resident’s decision to stay in the city? To see that, we tracked people filing taxes in the District between 2004 and 2012. The main findings are below and I’ve attached the study to this email:

· The District’s population is transient. Only 23 percent of the 42,257 tax filers who first filed in 2004 remained on the tax rolls in 2012.

· People tend to stay if there is a change in the family structure. Singles tend to leave and those who change their filing status, for example, because of a marriage, tend to stay.

· Family dynamics matter beyond marriage. We have shown elsewhere that the first child plays an important role in the decision to move out of the city. A second or a third child increases the probability that families will stay.

· The District attracts high-income residents. Among those who were in the highest income quintile when they arrived in the city in 2004, 41 percent were still found on the tax rolls. Only a quarter of filers who were in the lowest income quintile, however, were still on the tax rolls in 2012.”

Full report below:

Family Structure Study (PDF)

26 Comment

  • They keep saying this about DC, but they don’t mention what states are better, and they don’t compare the size of those states to DC. DC also does not have statehood which makes it a pretty weak in terms of parks and recreation because we rely on the feds to set our budgets and accountability of law makers is weaker than in states like New York and California. As someone who has lived around here for most of my life I think it’s a lot better than most of the states where people live forever. I think in fact that most people stay in a state because they often don’t have the financial mobility to move out, whereas you can move forward in DC financially if you make the right decisions much more easily than in other states where residents remain constantly. We don’t need more permanent residents anyway if you ask me, our population is already growing just fine.

    • The more appropriate benchmark would be mid-size city. The reason, I would argue, is not city perks, but the nature of the jobs available.

    • We formulate and appropriate our our own budget and funds. Congress merely rubber stamps the bill.

  • Another thing to remember is that low-income households don’t always file tax returns, so this is really only saying that those households that make a certain amount of money are transient.

  • Proud to be 1 of 42,257…

  • Certainly, the total numbers of people leaving will add up after ten years. Nevertheless, the Census data on mobility suggest that DC is just another American city, no more and no less transient.

  • The report states 25% of the lowest quintile stayed and highest 41% of the highest quintile stayed, yet overall 23% of the total population stayed. Doesn’t it follow that for the middle 3 quintiles, an average of 17% stayed during that period?

  • Shouldn’t this say many of those DC residents who were transient in 2003 were transient after? This is such an odd figure to use. What about the percentage of DC residents who filed in 2004? Why only include those who had recently moved (or recently filed a return for the first time)?

    • The stats that are being released have been so odd to me. I moved here in 1991 and I am not being counted. I am clearly not a transient. Also, the change in family dynamic seems to work the opposite way they are portraying it (they say a change in family structure indicates you will be here longer) but the longer you stay the more likely your family structure will change.

    • Blithe

      I don’t have the stats to back this up, but when I describe the changes that I’ve seen in DC, I tend to say things like “a lot of people have moved in during the last 10 – 15 years or so… and, the city has changed to accommodate them.” I’m guessing that many of the people who lived here prior to 2004 had more of a stake in the city as long term residents. (Yes, I know there are students, and people who come for political jobs, but I’m guessing that this has been a relatively stable number of transients in DC’s overall population numbers for decades.) I’m guessing that 2004 is the year that someone has identified as the beginning of the current trend in the rapid population increase. And that data focused on the question of: How many of the recently arrived residents have a stake in the city — such that they still lived in the city 8 – 10 years later. And the answer is “only 23 percent”.
      — I know I rant about this a lot, but I’m extremely concerned that the city that I grew up in is being changed in irrevocable ways to accommodate the needs of people who probably won’t be here 10 years from now. Which really makes me wonder who the city will then appeal to — and how/if the needs of long-time residents and long-term residents will be accommodated.

      • Our self-inflicted incompetence led to DC being bankrupt and taken over by the Control Board. Fortunately, that included the Independent CFO role which was first filled by Anthony Williams, later Mayor including in 2004. The changes were necessary for a sustainable city. I have no problem with irrevocable changes to attract a broader more affluent tax base, even if it is transient.

  • Notice that the 25% is based on taxpayers who FIRST filed in DC in 2004 – so it does not include people who paid taxes in DC BEFORE 2004 and it does not include low income people who do not file taxes. Still – I’m one of those who moved to DC (and started paying taxes here) in 2004 and I’m still here! WINNING!(?)

  • Only 42,000 tax filers in 2004 in DC? That number seems low.

  • This thread perfectly epitomizes why statistics are so dangerous in the hands of the general public… people do not know how to read them.
    I’m betting $100 that some other blog picks this up and says OMG only 42,000 DC residents paid taxes in 2004. Soshulizm!>!>@!!1

    • Heh, as someone who works with stats/numbers, I’m always afraid of them getting out into the wild. 😉

  • This isn’t so unbelievable if you consider that about 20% of the population moves in any one year (although many moves aren’t far), and that newcomers are different from people who’ve been here. Ten years of 20% attrition would get you beyond 75% attrition, so obviously lots of people stay. New comers as different–probably more students, interns, etc. and they disproportionately in places made for them–rental property, apartments, etc., so people who are more established don’t really notice them.

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