Assessing the District’s Population Loss

The District’s population declined an estimated 65,100 from 1990 to 1996. During the same
period, it also lost 17,000 households. These losses continue a trend that has persisted in the District
since 1960, and it is a trend that has been common for many older central cities that are ringed by
suburbs. The decline is often portrayed as a flight to the suburbs by city residents who are fleeing bad
schools, crime, taxes, or other features of central cities. The evidence to support such conclusions is
mixed at best. This paper explores the ways in which population loss occurs and reaches conclusions
about the significance for District policies.