In D.C., Incomes Just Keep on Rising

Incomes in D.C. have increased more than anywhere else, according to a new report.

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Incomes in D.C. just keep on rising, and from 2000 to 2010, it was the only place – other than states with natural gas resources and fracking – that saw its residents' earnings increase, according to a new report from Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council.

The report found workers in the D.C. metro area make more than $14,000 more than the typical working American.

The well-being of Washingtonians, measured in terms of health and education, continues getting better, according to the report. But in states with natural gas resources, such as West Virginia, North Dakota and Montana, where income levels have skyrocketed, life in those terms hasn't improved much.

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The new research, which is based on the United Nations' Human Development Index, seeks to show how Americans are faring beyond money metrics such as the gross domestic product. Of the 25 largest cities in the U.S., D.C. came in first overall in the index. (D.C. was 35th in terms of GDP in 2010.)

The report also reveals some striking disparities about who's making money in D.C. and who isn't.

"Whites in D.C. earn on average considerably more than Asian-Americans. And they earn twice as much Latinos," says Sarah Burd-Sharps, who co-authored the Measure of America report. Latinos in D.C. make an average of $25,000, while whites bring in about $55,000, according to the study. "That's an incredible disparity," she says.

There are several reasons that one segment of the D.C. population just keeps getting richer, according to Burd-Sharps, and the reasons may sound familiar. Washingtonians are more mobile and more educated.

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"D.C. is a magnet for highly educated people. ... So in terms of higher ed and earnings, it excels," she says.

According to the report, D.C. has a higher proportion of bachelor's degrees and graduate degrees than any other city in the U.S. The national average for bachelor degrees is less than 30 percent, while in D.C. it's at nearly 50. The proportion of people with master's degrees in Washington is more than twice the national average.

But when it comes to education, too, only some people are getting a slice of the pie.

"Latino educational attainment is pretty low" in D.C., says Burd-Sharps, pointing to the report's findings that nearly 38 percent in the Washington, D.C., metro area never completed high school. "That's the driver of very low earnings" for a segment of the population in D.C., she says.

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