Spatial Dynamics of Racialized Income Inequality in the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area

Erickson, Bradley O. / Daniel E. Esser / Katie L. Turner
External Publications (2021)

The Professional Geographer 73 (1), 72-84


This article presents findings of an analysis of the association between changes in neighborhoods’ racial composition and income inequality in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. We cluster U.S. Census data at the ward and district levels and find that the connection between race and income inequality appears potent in Washington, DC. Racially more homogeneous wards have lower income inequalities than those that are racially heterogeneous. We also show that two alternative measures of neighborhood-level racial diversity—proportion white and an entropy score—account for substantial shares in the variation in household incomes in these wards. In contrast, these patterns in the surrounding counties are less pronounced. Our analysis suggests that the U.S. capital’s growing prosperity and improved fiscal health have intensified income inequality across the DC metropolitan area especially within Washington, DC. We probe into these differences and argue that place stratification theory is helpful to understand changing neighborhood compositions in the entire Washington, DC, metropolitan area. Our results illustrate a need for more effective policy coordination across jurisdictions as well as greater consideration of housing policy to help decrease residential segregation and support vulnerable residents in and around the U.S. capital city.

About the author

Esser, Daniel

Development Studies, Human Geography


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