“D.C.’s total population now stands at 632,323 – a figure not seen since the early 1980s”

by Prince Of Petworth December 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm 65 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

From a press release:

Mayor Vincent C. Gray today welcomed the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau showing that the District’s population continued its rapid growth between July 2011 and July 2012, adding 13,303 residents and keeping us among the list of fastest-growing states in the Union.

This means D.C.’s total population now stands at 632,323 – a figure not seen since the early 1980s. The District grew by 2.1 percent over the year, or by an average of 1,109 new residents a month. This exceeds even the average increase of 1,085 new residents per month the District experienced in the 15 months between April 1, 2010 (when the 2010 Census count closed) and July 1, 2011 – the last period for which the Census Bureau offered official population estimates.

“Anyone who lives in the District or spends time here already knows what these Census Bureau figures confirm: that the District is on the move,” said Mayor Gray. “People are voting with their feet, and they want to live in D.C. This is due to the tremendous strides we’ve made in recent years in developing our city, improving our educational system, investing in infrastructure and raising the quality of city services.”

For the second year in a row, the District remained among the nation’s fastest-growing states by percent, outpacing even rapidly growing Sun Belt states such as Texas.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Harriet Tregoning, director of the District’s Office of Planning, which oversees the District’s State Data Center and Census activities. “We continue to focus on encouraging the best in land-use development and sustainability, and creating or maintaining convenient amenity-rich neighborhoods with great choices in housing and transportation. As I said two years ago, the District is a great place to live and I expect the population to continue to grow.”

Increase in Births, New Residents

According to the Census Bureau, this tremendous growth can be attributed to increasing births and an influx of new residents from other states and abroad. With over 9,000 births each year since 2008, the District is experiencing a baby boom – bucking a trend that has seen birth rates decline in much of the rest of the nation. The District experienced 9,156 births and 4,873 deaths from July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012. In addition to this gain of 4,283 residents from natural increase (births minus deaths), 8,953 people migrated into the District from other states and abroad, along with 67 people who were not placed in either of the two previous categories (residuals) – combining to provide a total net increase of 13,303 residents. The District continues to make gains in domestic migration with 6,050 more people (of the 8,953) moving into the city from other states than moved out.

Continues after the jump.


People are continuing to choose the Washington area to call home because of several factors. While other areas of the nation experienced severe job loss during the economic downturn, the Washington region employment rate remained fairly stable. From October 2011 to October 2012, the Washington region added 21,000 jobs, of which 20 percent were in the District. From the height of the recession in 2009 to the present, the region’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.7 percent to 5.2 percent. During the same period, the District’s unemployment rate dropped from a high of 10.5 percent to 8.5.


The Census Bureau numbers continue to reflect the demand for housing in the District. According to Delta Associates, new rental buildings in downtown and NoMa and along H Street NE leased up at some of the fastest rates in the region while rents increased 7.5 percent over 2011. The condominium market is seeing similar activity. The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors reports that condominium sales through November are up almost 20 percent over last year.


The District’s investments are providing more transportation choices – including car and bike sharing, rapid bus service and streetcar lines – while residents are better utilizing public transportation and walking to work. According to census data, between 2000 and 2011, for workers 16 years and older, the percentage of people who use public transportation for commuting increased from 33.2 percent to 39.6 percent. Over the 2000 to 2011 period, while the District’s population increased by 8 percent, the percentage of households with no vehicles available increased from 36.9 percent to 38.5 percent, meaning more people and households but fewer cars per household.


Another important factor making the District a safe and attractive place to live and work is the significant decline in homicide rates. According to the Metropolitan Police Department’s 2011 Annual Report, the District saw its lowest number of annual homicides in almost half a century with 108 murders, and the figure is on track to be even lower in 2012.

  • Anonymous

    Gray:”This is due to the tremendous strides we’ve made in recent years in developing our city, improving our educational system, investing in infrastructure and raising the quality of city services.”

    Actually, the growth has occurred despite the city’s failures in all of those areas.

    • EdTheRed

      Uh, were you not paying attention during the Barry-Pratt Kelly-Barry years? Say what you will about the state of development, the educational system, investment in infrastructure, and the quality of city services, but all of those things are in fact much improved (even if they’re still failing by some measures).

      • Anonymous

        Fair enough, but I think most of the improvement came during the Williams-Fenty years, not under Gray.

        • KenyonDweller

          I disagree. I voted for Fenty and don’t care much for Gray, but in all fairness, he has governed pretty much as Fenty lite, with many of the same policies and generally as competently as Fenty. Not that the city doesn’t have far to go, but it did under Williams and Fenty too.

        • Anonymous

          BS. Give it a rest. Even the Mayor’s most virulent opponent, the Washington Post editorial board, has said he’s doing a good job managing the city. Hell, he raised the ranks of MPD from 3700 to 3900, and is now fighting to go to 4000. Bikehare has also continued to grow much faster under his watch than Fenty.

          • Anonymous

            That was meant for Anon, not Kenyon.

      • As someone who lived here during some of the worst points in DC’s history (Rayful Edmonds/Barry Mayoral Administration), I think Williams was the real turning point for the city, and he also deserves most of the credit. Fenty and Gray caught the coat tails of a city economic boom that Williams had started, and they’re basking in the glow of the benefits when the most revolutionary things they’ve done are boost speed cameras and parking meter fines to make all the theft and misappropriation in DC gov look less dramatic.

        Trash collection, social services, building contracts, quality of living is all being driven by big and small businesses. DC Gov has been reactionary ever since Williams left office rather than proactive like William’s administration was.

        • Identified

          And to give credit where it is due:

          Barry and the work he did with pushing through the MCI (Verizon) Center, building the Reeves Center (no matter how hideous it is now).

          • Home of the Wizzards and DC Brittney/Backstreet concerts mind you… LOL.

          • Anonymous

            i agree. people are quick to dis barry, but he did do a lot of great things under very hard circumstances. even if he’s now moved beyond his own greatness.

  • anon

    The birth rate number is important. It counters the received wisdom that a majority of the influx of new residents are young singles or retirees. Young families are making their home in the city at an increasing rate.

    • anon

      i also thought this was interesting… mainly because it went contrary to my assumptions… cool!

  • jcm

    So now we have more people than two states. I wonder how many states we’d have to beat before they let us vote?

    • Won’t ever happen. It would upset the balance of the light and dark side of the force.

    • KenyonDweller

      It has nothing to do with population and everything to do with the percentage of white people. If current demographic trends continue, DC will have a vote within the next ten years.

      • anon

        you’re an idiot.

        it has everything to do with the fact that back in the early 1800s (read: “founding fathers”) Congress decided that the city which was the capital of the United States should belong to all and not governed by a government which has it’s own self interests. This has broad implications not only in lawmaking but also for federal courts, federal banks, etc… all of these entities should serve the entire country’s interest and not simply it’s own.

        • Anonymous

          two things you ought to do; learn to be respectful and read up on the issue a bit more.

          • anon

            #1: no… #2: feel free to enlighten us more…

          • Anonymous

            sorry, kid. unless you can learn #1, no sense having a conversation.

    • Anonymous

      Uh, you didn’t know that we can vote? There was a general election back in November! The whole voting representation in Congress issue has confused a lot of people into believing that we citizens of DC do not have the right of basic suffrage.

      Bottom line: If you’re registered to vote in DC, you can vote.

      • anon

        i think you missed the boat… DC does not have any votes in Congress.

        • Anonymous

          I think you’re a little confused, it’s the person I replied to who has missed the boat. Perhaps I didn’t do a good enough job of explaining it, though.

          • Identified

            DC residents do not have full voting rights.

            So, both of you are correct.

          • Anonymous

            Wow, the confusion around here is really a lot worse than I thought. DC residents can vote for every elected office that residents of the states can. It’s the lack of voting congressional representation that is the issue here.


  • TG

    I am responsible for two new DC residents born in the City. Doing my part.

  • Thor

    I want to be optimistic and say that this is creating a virtuous cycle. More city residents means healthier finances for the city, better services, higher quality of life, better schools, less crime, etc. which in turn means more city residents.

    • I tend to lean toward the optimistic side as well, although a “solution” to the upcoming fiscal cliff would make me feel more comfortable about the trajectory continuing. I definitely think there has been an upsurge in 20 and 30-somethings who come to DC for school or job but decide to stay, make this home, and invest in local business and community efforts. 10-15 years ago, much of that population was more transitory and temporary.

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile, not nearly enough places to live have been built to house all these new people.

    • Anonymous

      Then where are they living?

      • anon

        Where the above poster fears to tread? The answer is that they are living in places that are not Upper NW, Georgetown, Dupont, Logan, etc. The idea that there is not adequate housing in DC is a myth. The idea that there is not *affordable* housing in the popular ‘hoods is accurate (and not affordable to everybody, affordable to the non-lawyer/lobbyist set). Those who want to make the District their home are making a place for themselves in less established (but still convenient) neighborhoods.

      • Anonymous

        Well, many of those who can’t afford $2K a month are living 4-to-a-1BR basement apartment.

        And, it’s not exactly affordable in your less-desirable neighborhoods either.

        • Anonymous

          When you say “many”, just how many? Do you have solid information to back up your comment? I can honestly say I can think of zero people that I know that are living 4 to a 1 bedroom basement apartment.

          • Anonymous

            Welcome to the concept of circumstantial evidence. You learn something new every day!

  • Anonymous

    early 1980s? Sweeet! Now where’s that track suit and rope chain . . . ?

  • The major question mark here is related to job growth. We had the Big Government boom from 2001 until now. It’s the reason why our region thrived during the Financial Crisis while the rest of the country was in the pits. We have a counter-cyclical economy in DC. If the government starts slashing headcount and not renewing contracts, I have a very real fear that DC will start sliding backwards. A LOT of people were heading to DC from 2008 until now because it was one of the only places hiring in the country. Lots of laid off lawyers and finance people came here because they couldn’t work in NYC.

    I think we’re at the end of a very long government expansion that lasted for over a decade. DC has greatly benefited, but we need to prepare for the worst right now.

    • It’s also people moving from VA and MD into the District. There are about 10 people I know who have moved from VA to the District in the last couple years. Even my token Republican cousin and her husband are considering moving from Arlington into DC.

      Sure, the metro area growth and increase in wealth has been due to the increase in government, but the District’s population growth goes beyond that.

      • Anonymous

        advise them against it.

        • Ha ha ha, yeah, it won’t be in the immediate future, that much I know. If they ask me for advice, I certainly will follow your suggestion.

          • Anonymous

            ; )

  • dcjobs

    I think that population growth and gentrification for the District is a good thing. But lets not fool ourselves here. The population gusher in the District the past 4 years has absolutely nothing to do with Fenty or Gray, nor does it have anything to do with the rest of that typical Mayoral Press Release tripe (the Districts public transportation service is worse off now than ever before, and the streetcar is about 6 yeaers behind schedule. Also, homicides are down similar rates nationwide, not a unique DC thing)

    DC pop was 572K in 2000 and 601K in 2010, for a yearly growth rate of half a percent, adding 2,900 residents a year. This was during DC’s largest “then” RE boom and the nations economy was humming right along.

    DC’s pop grew from 601K in 2010, to 632K in 2012, adding 31K residents in 24 months, or 15,500 residents per year, a rate 5 TIMES that during the 2000-2010 period.

    The DC region has added tens of thousands of jobs in the past 4 years, more than ten thousand in the District alone while the rest of the nation hemorrhaged jobs and most recently started adding them ever so slowly.

    Point is, this population gusher in DC has everything to do with the Federal Government pumping 80 billion procurement dollars into the DCMSA this year, up 30% from 2008. This is of course, on top of the 35 billion in salaries the feds pay in the DCMSA.

    Ask yourself this. Do you or the folks you know who’ve moved to the District the past 4 years work directly for Uncle Sam or a Contractor, or does their employer directly service either?

    DC has been a nice place to live since Anthony Williams was mayor. There was no magic Fenty/Gray mojo that made it 5 times nicer in the past 4 years, and once the fiscal cliff and next years budget works itself out, you are going to see the jobs, and consequently the people disappearing.

    • I moved here in 2009 for a fed job. Around 20 friends and acquaintances have moved into the District since then. A little under half have jobs connected in some way to the federal government. So sure, federal government expansion is one cause for DC’s growth, but not the only one.

      • dcjobs

        Out of curiousity where/what do a few of those other people do?

        • One is at a think tank, a couple work at the WB, one is at another international development bank, one is a social worker in DCPS, one works at a health clinic, one is at a non-profit (that is international in focus), and four are in the private sector (media and energy industries). 3 of those in the private sector do focus on the government, but don’t provide services or receive funding from it (merely do research and write about government policies).

        • ms. pac-man

          My husband and I moved here in 2009. I work for a university, he is in insurance.

      • anon

        I moved here in 2008 (for a job) with Boeing. I know 6 other people who have moved here during that period, 4 work for contractors, 1 directly for uncle sam and another, who as a lawyer working for one of DC’s largest lawfirms, I was going to say “didn’t” work in a federally related area, but she in fact is working on a slew of cases with the justice department on tracking down Stimulus Money thefts.

        Boeing has already told the team I am working on the contract we are billable to that client agency is telling everyone they probably aren’t going to exercise our option years when we reach our May 2013 end date.

    • otavio

      The DC population gusher doesn´t have everything to do with the federal government pumping $80 billion dollars into the DC Metro Area.

      My question to you….

      What percentage of this $80 billion in procurement dollars goes to DC only? I have researched this before and found that the vast majority of federal procurement dollars in this region go to the states of Virginia and Maryland.

      Also, from October 2011 to October 2012, direct federal government jobs in DC decreased from 211,400 to 209,000. This was a -2.4% decrease.

      The big job gainer in DC right now is Education and Health Services, which gained 5,400 jobs from October 2011 to October 2012 for an increase of 5.4%.

    • I think your assessment is a bit off. It’s not like the Federal Govt wasn’t here and wasn’t expanding before the year 2001. In fact, it’s been expanding ever since it began. It’s that people moving to and living in this area actually consider DC a viable and place to live now. Much of the growth in DC population would have otherwise moved to the burbs as they had in the past decades. Credit has to be given to Mayor Anthony Williams who first brought the change. Fenty and Gray have kept it going, albeit with some momentum already in place. I expect more of this type of growth in the next several years.

      • this reply was to the comment made by dcjobs

        • dcjobs


          Yes, of course the federal government was here, but lets not pretend the massive expansion the past 10 years was anything but extraordinary.

          The fed’s spent 30 billion a year in the DCMSA in 2001 in procurement alone, basically the acquisition of goods and services from DC area firms. It is 80 billion a year now, and 60 billion in 2008. A little more than 600 billion dollars, just in federal procurement has been dumped into a ~100 mile radius of the Washington Monument since 2001. 240 billion of that, or 40% since 2008.

          Total federal spending in the DCMSA was 170 billion dollars last year, up from 130 billion 2008.

          I am not sure why it matters how much was specifically in the District, as the District is a small 60 sq/ft chunk of land square in the middle of it, and home to the federal government, but to answer your question, about 20 billion a year, the fifth highest in the nation.

          The federal government provides anywhere from 40-50% of the World Banks yearly operating income, and has for decades, in the range of 20 billion a year. Uncle Sam also funds 25% of the IDB’s funds, and any international non-profit is sure to be getting money from USAID or other federal sources. Point is, those friends of yours are indeed working in federal jobs. Uncle Sam’s name may not be on the check, but he is paying to keep the lights on.


          C’mon folks. I think the proof is pretty clear. Federal spending increases 30% in the local economy, dumping 40 billion per year more into the local economy than was being spent here 4 years ago.

          Mix this in with a population growth rate 500% higher on a year by year basis from 2008 in the District and compare this to the horrid economy of the rest of the nation and discerning the source of the bulk of that growth isn’t rocket science.

          It also gives us a picture of what will happen when it stops, and it will.

          • dcjobs…… What I’m saying is that I don’t see an end to the expansion of the Federal Govt any time soon. The economy in the DC metro area has been booming for years. Most of the economic growth was outside of the city whereas now it is inside the city.

          • dcjobs

            Sapo, history has taught us differently. There have been 3 periods of procurement and federal employment reductions in the DC area in the last 30 years. Am I saying that they will cut federal spending in the DC area back to 100 billion a year? No, I am saying it will retract 8-10% (min) over a few years and then stagnate, stay there for another 5 years before going anywhere.

            The kind of growth DC has been experiencing needs the 15% year over year spending growth at a minimum to sustain itself. Toss in actual reductions, even if they only are a few percent a year, then the best case scenario is that the District goes back to adding the 200 residents per month that it averaged between 2001-2008 during both the hot local and national economy, not the 1200 per month it has been averaging since.

    • Anonymous

      I do agree that some changes linked to the so-called fiscal cliff are a coming. But I think it will have a greater impact on the suburbs more so than DC city. Particularly, on Fairfax County and Montgomery county, both areas that are home to large defense contractors and the people who work there.

  • Anonymous

    If there are so many people in DC why the hell do I get called for jury duty so often?!?!?!?! One year it is federal the next DC. UGH

    • You’re the only one left without a felony.

    • Tell them to call me up! I never get called up and I WANT to serve.

      • Anonymous

        grand jury is what you really want

        • Is that the 5 week business? I’ll take it! Any jury, just call me!

  • I moved to DC for a beautiful woman who is now my wife. And since one anecdote equals data, I attribute this population boom to an abundance of beautiful people attracting mates from other states. Keep up the good work, fellow sexy citizens.

  • Mr P

    Can you image when DC had 30% more population than today. It was over 800K at its peak in the 1950s…with street cars and trolleys that are needed today.

    • Anonymous

      ……and the population density caused people to crave moving to the burbs to have a little breathing space.

      • washingtonian

        Actually, (white) people started leaving for the suburbs around the same time that the Jim Crow laws in this town got repealed. Interstate highway and suburban development construction in VA and MD certainly helped.

  • Anonymous

    DC has lower square footage of retail space per capita than the average city. a lot less. we don’t need an increase in population, we just need retail business to invest here.

    • wylie coyote

      The higher number of people with disposable income move into the city, the more likely (and the faster) it will be that we will see a rapid increase in available retail. Remember, there are also a lot of red tape hurdles to opening a new business in the city. Having that central Small Business Center in SW helps, but we still have to work on making it much, much easier for a new business to open its doors, while still protecting health code standards, fire code safety standards and the like, of course.

  • Anonymous

    The DC metro region was an obvious beneficiary of the 911 attacks and the resulting massive expansion of the federal gov’t through deficit spending, and then global recession.

    Clearly, the federal gov’t can’t grow at the same clip and will likely need to shrink over the next 25 years. The defensive industry will probably get clipped the most, and that will have the most notable impact locally as contractors and feds trim payrolls.

    The question is whether the population boom and private sector will power the local economy through the cut backs by the federal gov’t. My guess is that the global trend of young professionals moving back to the cities and staying there to raise families WILL continue, which should continue to drive the growing service sector in the city.

    My guess is that the District will be the least impacted by the regional slowdown, will the outer suburbs taking the biggest hit. The District should be able to maintain as long as the yuppies get more comfortable living in a “dangerous” city and decide to move downtown as opposed to Arlington and Bethesda.

  • Bruce Majors

    Are you implying that when they finally got the lead out of the water after 2004 fertility rates went up?

    Or that now that the power goes out for tens of thousands of people once or twice a year during storms, people make babies when they have no HBO?


Subscribe to our mailing list