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Poverty rates plummet for D.C. Asians, Hispanics

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Matt Connolly,Arlington,Prince Georges County

Shifting racial demographics have led to lower poverty rates for Asians and Hispanics in much of the Washington region, according to new census data.

The percentage of D.C. Hispanics under the poverty line dropped from 20.5 percent, or 8,968 people, in the 2000 census to 14 percent, or 7,628 people, in the 2007-2011 average. The Hispanic poverty rate in Prince George's County dropped from 14.1 percent of 55,727 people to 11.7 percent of 122,304 people.

Rates for Hispanics in other counties remained relatively stagnant, with only Arlington County showing a notable increase, from 12.8 percent, or 4,436 people, to 13.6 percent, or 4,063 people.

Making ends meet
Residents under the poverty line, 2007-2011
D.C. Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Arlington
White 13,893 15,291 10,331 16,936 4,892
Black 76,955 18,157 39,552 10,903 2,367
Asian 2,671 7,302 2,783 11,937 2,293
Hispanic 7,268 18,111 14,329 16,977 4,063
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Poverty rates for Asians, meanwhile, dropped across the board, with the biggest decrease coming in D.C. -- 14 percent of the 19,143 Asians in the District are below the poverty line, down from 22.8 percent of 13,602 in 2000.

"It could be reflective of the improving regional economy," said Peter Tatian, a senior research associate in the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. "Some groups are better able to take advantage of that than others."

Growing science, technology and medicine sectors mean more jobs for more well-educated residents, including many Asians, according to Howard University sociology professor Roderick Harrison. And a growing professional sector means more jobs for blue-collar workers, including many Hispanics, he said.

Black poverty rates stayed at about 26 percent, or 76,955 people, in D.C. and 7.5 percent, or 39,552 people, in Prince George's County while rising in Montgomery, Fairfax and Arlington counties. Experts have attributed that to gentrification pushing lower-income blacks out of the District and into the inner-ring suburbs.

"A longer-term trend has been more suburbanization of poverty," Tatian said. "It could be that with the kind of jobs that are being created now, more of the Latino population are able to take advantage of those new jobs than the African-American population."

The white poverty rate rose significantly only in Prince George's, where it jumped from 5.3 percent in 2000 to 8.4 percent in the 2007-2011 average. The white population there dropped from 186,488 to 122,781 in that time, meaning higher-income whites may have moved out of the county.

Poverty rates are often more telling of migration patterns than income changes of those who stay put, according to Tatian.

"It's not that the situation of the people living here before got better," he said. "It's that there are different people."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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