D.C.'s population grows for first time in 60 years

Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Liz Farmer
The District recorded its first population increase in more than half a century and topped 600,000 residents for the first time in 20 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 population counts released Tuesday.

And while Virginia posted double-digit growth, its and Maryland's population growth rate slowed during the past decade, mirroring a similar slowdown across the country.

The District's population swing is attributed partly to the development the city enjoyed during the earlier part of the decade, said U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves.

"It's the return of folks to live in urban areas and this is happening in other parts of the country as well," he said. "There's a renewal of housing within urban areas and D.C. is a beneficiary in this decade of that, clearly."

D.C.'s march to 601,723
Virginia's march to 8,001,024
Maryland's march to 5,773,552

More specifically, the white flight from cities in the 1980s and '90s seems to have reversed. The number of whites in Maryland's suburbs has fallen since 2000 while it has increased in D.C. and communities just across the Potomac River in Northern Virginia, according to the Census Bureau's less current but more detailed American Community Survey data.

The census' survey data contains more detailed community information based on averages in recent years, whereas the 2010 census, which Grove delivered to President Obama Tuesday morning, contains only state population counts and the reapportioning of congressional seats.

D.C. officials Tuesday used the new population count of 601,713 -- a 5.2 percent increase -- as proof that the city's schools, retail and quality of neighborhoods have become attractive once again. They also attributed the increase in residents to rising birth rates and the migration of people from other states and abroad.

"More people than ever are moving to our city and staying in our city," Mayor Adrian Fenty said. "This is a fantastic endorsement of the work we've done."

The District's population peaked in 1950 with more than 800,000 residents and steadily declined in each decennial census until this year.

Virginia's total population in 2010 increased to 8 million residents, up 13 percent from 2000 and the 16th highest growth rate in the country. While it represents the second-highest population increase among its mid-Atlantic neighbors -- Delaware's population increased by 14.6 percent -- it is the lowest rate by which Virginia's population has grown since 1940.

Maryland's population grew to 5.8 million residents, an increase of 9 percent. Its growth rate ranks 23rd in the country. Like Virginia, it is the second-lowest growth rate of the past 100 years, although Maryland's slowest rate was in 1980.

The slowdown is part of a national trend most likely related to the economic recession, Groves said.

The U.S. population grew by 9.7 percent to 308.7 million people in 2010, up from more than 281 million in 2000. The rate of increase is down from 13.2 percent in 2000 and is the second-lowest in the last century.

The lowest rate was in the years of the Great Depression, when the population grew by just 7.3 percent, according to the 1940 census.

"When you look at that trend in growth rate I think the case is pretty attractive to make that the [recession] triggered the growth rate," Groves said.

In addition, the national population is shifting south and west, Groves said. While the five most densely populated states -- including Maryland -- are still in the Northeast or mid-Atlantic, the states that showed the biggest population increases are all in the South and West.

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