While the pace of DC’s population growth has slowed a bit in the last year, the city nonetheless officially surpassed a big milestone this week. According to the state-level estimates from the US Census Bureau, DC topped 700,000 residents for the first time since 1975.
Milestones like this are a good time to step back and look at the broader context:
- 700,000 is still 200,000 below DC’s all time peak population
- The current level is more like 100,000 below DC’s sustained peak population level (absent war-time restrictions)
- The pace of growth is impressive, but still slower than historic rates when DC had greenfield growth opportunities within the District limits
- Population growth will continue due to the number of units already under construction, with approximately 15,600 units under construction right now.
On the other hand, it’s worth remembering how small DC remains. Brooklyn alone has a similar land area to the District (71 square miles to DC’s 61 square miles) housing nearly 4x as many people:
Likewise, the new estimates put DC’s population density at approximately 11,500 per sq mile, still less than Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and any number of other cities.
Even DC’s peak population of 900,000 would only yield a population density of 14,750/sq mile – less than San Francisco, Cambridge, Jersey City, Somerville, and others.
In other words, there’s lots of room to grow.