D.C. Policy Center’s research and publications on racial equity and economic and social inequalities

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14th and U Streets, as seen from The Ellington. This part of Washington, DC is going to undergo tremendous change in the next 2 years

Since its inception, the D.C. Policy Center staff and researchers have taken great care to examine inequalities across different issue areas. Below is a list for our readers who would like to learn more about our work.

D.C. History

  • Once Upon A Time In NoMa. The neighborhood was primarily home to people–per the 1970 census, 5,339 persons in 2,017 homes (mostly rentals)–86 percent black, typical family income less than half D.C.’s median, and over half poor (52 percent by the then newly-defined federal poverty standard). By David Rusk, June 5, 2017.
  • A timeline of LGBT places and spaces in D.C.. Started in 1975, the celebration now referred to as Capital Pride is just one piece of a larger LGBT movement in D.C. over the past six decades that sought, and continues to seek, equal treatment and acceptance. Bars, bookstores, group homes, clinics, and churches across the District played an essential role in providing safe spaces to a community facing discrimination as it fought for its rights. By Kate Rabinowitz, June 8, 2017.
  • Once Upon A Time In NoMa: Part II. Sammie Abbott (a white resident, and future Mayor, of Takoma Park) and Reginald Booker (a black activist whose family had already been forced out of their Southwest home by urban renewal) organized a racially and socioeconomically inclusive Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis (ECTC).  They linked highway opposition to civil rights: “No white man’s roads through black man’s homes” was their cry. ECTC championed an alternative to the horrific highway plans: a subway system to allow city and suburban residents to travel within D.C. and surrounding suburbs. By David Rusk, June 14, 2017.
  • The rise and demise of racially restrictive covenants in Bloomingdale. In February 1944 Clara Mays, an African American federal government employee, purchased a three-story rowhouse in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, just north of Florida Avenue, close to Howard University. The South Carolina native and her large family had been forced to seek a new home when the place they had been renting was sold. Mays settled on 2213 First Street NW, part of an elegant Bloomingdale row built in 1904. Warned that she would be taking a risk in buying the house because a racially restrictive covenant barred its sale to African Americans, Mays went ahead anyway because she lacked other options. When white neighbors sued to stop the Mays family from occupying the property, a D.C. court ruled in their favor. Mays and her family, which included three sisters and four nieces, were given 60 days to get out. By Sarah Shoenfeld & Mara Cherkasky, April 3, 2019.
  • Race and real estate in mid-century D.C.  For the first half of the 20th century  in much of Washington, D.C.—especially north of Florida Avenue and east of the Anacostia River—racially restrictive deed covenants legally barred black settlement. By Sarah Shoenfeld, April 16, 2019
  • The history of Deanwood’s local foodscape. Owning land and homes provided the space for farming and gardening, which were integral to the growth and development of Deanwood in the first half of the twentieth century. By Ashanté Reese, March 20, 2019.
  • The history and evolution of Anacostia’s Barry Farm. As white hostility toward African American participation in civic life increased in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Barry Farm community survived and thrived. By Sarah Shoenfeld, July 9, 2019.

Demographics and economic outcomes



  • Food access in D.C is deeply connected to poverty and transportation. . D.C. still has a notable amount of concentrated food deserts, which are deeply connected to both poverty and transportation. By Randy Smith, March 13, 2017.
  •  The health wealth gap in D.C.. Members of D.C.’s poorest communities were twice as likely to be obese, and report regularly receiving fewer than 7 hours of sleep. They were also three times as likely not to exercise. Higher rates of obesity, along with less sleep and exercise, are well-documented effects of longer commute times, fewer walkable areas, food deserts, crime, and stress associated with poverty. The one reported unhealthy activity wealthiest residents were more likely to partake in was binge drinking. By Kate Rabinowitz, May 2, 2017.
  • Pushing through complacency to fight health disparities in D.C.’s African American communities. Why does the same city that’s frequently ranked the “Healthiest City in America” still have such disparities in health outcomes for its African American residents? The answer is complicated, encompassing gentrification and demographic change, broken trust between the community and health care providers, and complacent attitudes about investments in the community. By Tiffany E. Browne, May 18, 2017.
  • D.C.’s heat islands. The neighborhoods at highest risk of heat stroke or heat-related illnesses include those of Buzzard Point, Edgewood, and Washington Highlands. By Randy Smith, August 8, 2017.
  • Where it’s easiest to live car-free in D.C. Tor some residents, getting around the city without a car may be easier said than done. By Randy Smith, October 31, 2017.
  • Equitable bike share systems: Removing barriers to access. Capital Bikeshare, like the other major American systems, offers heavily discounted memberships to qualifying low-income people. However, the system is intimidating, and riddled with redtape and offers to alternatives for those who don’t have access to a bank account or a credit card. By Alon Levy, November 1, 2017.
  • Confronting the opioid—and fentanyl—crisis in the District. Now that fentanyl has infiltrated the regional heroin supply and arrived on the streets of the District, it’s killing an older core of experienced users—generally black men aged 50 to 70 who began using during the previous drug crises of the 1970s and 1980s, but found a way to manage their addiction for all these years. Until now. By Mathew Pembleton, February 8, 2018.
  • Pharmacy access varies greatly across D.C. Pharmacies in the District of Columbia are heavily concentrated in D.C.’s downtown and daytime centers of population, with 36 licensed pharmacies in Ward 2 and 25 in Ward 6. Ward 3 has 21 pharmacies, while Ward 7 has only seven, and Ward 8 has 12. By Yesim Sayin Taylor & Kathryn Zickuhr, June 3, 2019.



  • Banning suspensions is a blunt tool to reduce exclusionary discipline  Black students are not only more likely to receive suspensions compared with Hispanic and white students, but those who were disciplined were more likely to miss multiple days of school and more likely to receive multiple suspensions. By Chelsea Coffin & Kathryn Zickuhr, January 30, 2018.
  • Landscape of Diversity in D.C. Public Schools. New data shows a diversifying Washington region, but diversity is hard to find school by school in the District of Columbia. By Chelsea Coffin, December 17, 2018.
  • No Guarantee of a Seat at D.C.’s Most Racially Diverse Schools. Families seeking racial and ethnic diversity in D.C.’s schools may have difficulty finding a seat at the type of school they desire unless they live within the boundary for a diverse DCPS neighborhood school. This can be a challenge for low-income families, as almost half (12 out of 26) of the neighborhood options that are the most racially and ethnically diverse are located in Wards 2 and 3, where housing tends to be more expensive. By Chelsea Coffin, December 20, 2018.
  • Racial and ethnic diversity over time in D.C.’s schools. Not only are schools less racially and ethnically diverse than the overall student body, but racial and ethnic diversity did not change much at the majority of schools from 2014-15 to 2016-17. By Chelsea Coffin, February 6, 2019.
  • Beyond diversity to equitable, inclusive schools . After centuries of exclusion and segregation within the American education system, major policy efforts in the last 60 years have focused on desegregating schools in terms of getting a diverse set of students into school buildings. By Laura Wilson Phelan and Lee Teitel, February 26, 2019.
  • Access to schools that level the playing field for D.C.’s at-risk students . At-risk students are less likely to attend a high-quality school than other students. By Chelsea Coffin, September 30, 2019.
  • More difficult to get a spot at D.C.’s leveler schools.  Leveler schools—those that provide the best environment for learning for the District’s disadvantage students, have longer waitlists. By Chelsea Coffin, October 17, 2019.
  • New D.C. education data show how school choice plays out across wards The share of students who attend school within their ward varies by ward. That percentage is significantly higher for students living east of the Anacostia River, as 68 percent of students in Ward 7 and 79 percent of students in Ward 8 attend school in the same ward where they live. By Meghan Gallagher & Chelsea Coffin, October 25, 2019.
  • State of D.C. Schools. Neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8 have the highest numbers of at-risk students. Over the past five years, the number of at-risk students in both wards has increased, while the number of at-risk students elsewhere in the city has largely decreased. By the D.C. Policy Center’s Education Policy Initiative Team, January 16, 2020.
  • What D.C. schools need to do to tackle chronic absenteeism. The incidence of chronic absenteeism is highest—and increasing—for Black students. By Phyllis Jordan, February 13, 2020.
  • When students don’t feel safe in the neighborhood: How can schools help? In D.C., a large share of children and youth up to age 17 are likely to be exposed to traumatic events. By Yunsoo Park, March 3, 2020.
  • Student achievement is on the rise, but critical gaps persist. A close analysis of achievement gaps shows that the city is a long way from every student reaching his or her full potential. By Tanaz Meghjani, March 5, 2020.

Social Justice

  • Implementing the NEAR Act to reduce violence in D.C.. The Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act was passed by the Council of the District of Columbia in March 2016 in response to an increase in homicides the previous year.  Its goal was to reduce violence in the District, but instead of perpetuating broken and ineffective “war on drugs”-style methods, it uses a community-based public health approach to violence prevention and intervention that is based – in part – on an innovative model pioneered in Richmond, California. By Brent J. Cohen, May 25. 2017.
  • Predominately black neighborhoods in D.C. bear the brunt of automated traffic enforcement. Put differently, a driver in a black-segregated area is over 17 times more likely to receive a moving violation (at a cost of 16 times more per resident) than in a white-segregated area. William Farrell, June 28, 2018.
  • Applying a racial equity lens to fines and fees in the District of Columbia. Underlying inequities mean that families of color are disproportionately likely to experience serious consequences of paying—or failing to pay—these costs. Furthermore, because these debts are owed to the government, fines and fees can often lead to more specific interlocking and compounding problems. Kathryn Zickuhr, April 22, 2019.
  • Hate Crimes in D.C.: 2018 was a record setting year for hate crimes in the District of Columbia. By Shirin Arslan. November 6, 2019.
  • What is the impact of fare evasion in D.C.?  Fare evasion enforcement efforts focus almost entirely on young Black riders. By Kathryn Zickuhr, February 20, 2020.


  • Reducing barriers for job-seekers. While it’s useful to think about the future of work, many of the present-day workforce challenges are centered around those who are already being left behind. By Bruce Ormond Grant, May 23, 2018.
  • Obstacles to employment for returning citizens in D.C. Even after returning citizens are released from prison,[3] however, the consequences of their crimes continue. These former offenders continue to face hardships and challenges upon release, including finding housing, financial support, and jobs because of their time in prison. By Robin Selwitz, August 17, 2018.50. Battling Racial Discrimination in the Workplace. Black job-seekers should have the same shot at landing a job as a white applicant. But across the country, equally qualified Black job-seekers generally do not. The cascading effect of racial bias means there are fewer call backs, fewer jobs offers, less ability to negotiate, and ultimately less income too. By Becky Strauss, January 24, 2019.
  • Testimony on the “Removing Barriers to Occupational Licensing for Returning Citizens Amendment Act of 2019” For returning citizens who cannot be considered for a license because of criminal justice system involvement that is not connected to the occupational requirements, occupational licensing is a definitive roadblock. By Yesim Sayin Taylor, January 29, 2020.

Business Conditions

  • 2018 State of Business Report: Towards a More Inclusive Economy. In 2003, the District government committed itself to growing its population by 100,000 by attracting more residents, especially families, to strengthen its neighborhoods and reverse years of population loss. This meant significant investments in schools, revitalizing neighborhoods, creating work opportunities for all who share the city, and ensuring there was enough housing stock with amenities that families needed to flourish. By these metrics, the city’s achievements in 2017 are mixed. By Yesim Sayin Taylor, October 10, 2018.
  • Building the ecosystem for Black women entrepreneurs in D.C.  Just 18 percent of all business establishments in D.C. are reported to be owned solely by women, and only 27 percent are owned by people of color. By Shelly Bell, September 5, 2019.