Our Challenge Focus: Reducing Poverty in Washington, DC

October 4, 2011

Poverty in Washington, D.C. is an omnipresent and overwhelming problem. Today, nearly 1 in 5 residents in Washington, DC are at or below the poverty line. In 2010, the Coalition on Human Needs found that the poverty rate in Washington, D.C. is the highest of any state. 

And poverty in the nation’s capital is ever increasing. The DC Fiscal Policy Institute reports that from 2007 to 2009 the number of people living in poverty in the District is estimated to have risen 19 percent. Today, the poverty rate is 19.2 %, up 0.8 % from 2009. Homelessness among families increased by 46% between 2008 and 2011. DC’s income gap is also widening. Income disparity in Washington, DC is high in comparison to the rest of the United States. While the median income is greater than that of the rest of the country, the percent of those below the poverty line is also greater, by around 3%.

The most worrying statistics concern children. The child poverty rate is currently at 30.4%, an increase of 7.7% since 2007, according to Poverty and Policy. According to the Washington Post, nearly one in three DC children live in poverty, which is about double that of the national average. These numbers are higher than most Unites States metropolitan areas. According to the Children Defense Fund, child poverty correlates to racial disparity; in Washington, D.C., 31.3% of African American children are poor as opposed to 2.3% of white children.

To combat this critical issue, faith-inspired organizations have been at the forefront of volunteerism. According to a report published by the White House in 2006, faith-inspired religious organizations are the most popular volunteer organizations.

In fact, one-third of volunteers learn about services through their respective congregation. The need to reduce poverty is a focal point of unity within the interfaith community, since each faith is dedicated to the cause. Poverty reduction and interfaith dialogue therefore go hand in hand.

Resources on Poverty

This U.S. Census Bureau fact sheet provides statistics on the intersection of population, race, and employment in Washington, D.C. The statistics are from 2005-2010 and are juxtaposed with those of the United States at large.

This Washington Examiner article is titled “D.C.’s vast income gap is widening,” published in December, 2010. It compares the annual income of the rich and poor in the area. It concludes that D.C. poverty disparity has increased by 45 percent over the past five years.

This fact sheet was published by the Corporation for National and Community Service in 2006. It highlights the important role of faith-based service groups in combating poverty in America.

Published September 2011, “DC Poverty Rate Hits 19.2 Percent,” highlights the state of poverty, child poverty, and racial gaps in Washington, D.C. The blog entry was written by Kathryn Baer, an independent consultant in policy communications. Her blog, Poverty and Policy, writes to support advocacy at all levels of government.

This report titled “Poverty on the Rise in the District: The Impact of Unemployment in 2009 and 2010” was published by Fiscal Policy Institute, Washington, D.C. It was written by Jenny Reed in March, 2010. The report compares data from 2007 till 2010 on the intersection of unemployment, poverty, and food stamp caseloads.

This Washington Post article is titled “Report finds rise in D.C. poverty to nearly 1 in 5 residents”. Published in March 2010, the author Tim Craig writes on the recent report of the increasing poverty gap in Washington D.C. He relates the report to policy implications such as Defeat Poverty DC, a group hoping to force elected officials to make poverty a central focus of their campaigns.

Resources on Faith and Poverty

This article “Ending Poverty: Real Questions for the Interfaith Community” was published by the Council for a Parliament of the World Religions. It was written by Kim Bobo, the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice. Bobo notes the necessity of the faith community combating poverty and the success they have achieved in uniting over this common cause. She also notes the need for faith-based groups to tackle justice issues.

This resource “DC-based Interfaith Initiatives” is provided by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs based in Washington, D.C. This page offers descriptions of local organizations that aim to promote interfaith dialogue.

The Jan DuPlain Interfaith Speakers Bureau is the first such bureau in Washington, D.C. It hopes to promote dialogue among different religions and cultures. The Bureau, is in association with the Buxton Initiative and is a collaboration of the DuPlain Enterprises Foundation and The InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.