Reducing Poverty in Washington, D.C. and Rebuilding the Middle Class from Within

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Washington D.C. has experienced job growth, increases in city revenues, and a development boom over the past several years, but too many residents are excluded from local and regional prosperity. Ensuring the District’s future as a vibrant, inclusive city depends on a commitment to increase the middle class from within. This paper from Brookings Greater Washington makes a set of focused recommendations for a workforce development strategy that will increase the skills, earnings, and employment of at least 10,500 low-income, low-skilled residents over the next seven years.

Workforce development, however, should be seen as part of a broader strategy to move the working poor into the middle class. Even with enhanced education and job placement services, many residents will continue to work in low-wage jobs. Polices and programs that support employment and create financial incentives to work can help residents in low-wage jobs make ends meet.

Additionally, an unstable housing situation can make it difficult to find and keep a job or participate in workforce programs. This paper proposes increasing assistance to alleviate the severe housing shortage experienced by the lowest-wage workers. To help working households stay in the city as their incomes increase, this paper also recommends developing workforce rental housing for middle-income families.

By helping more residents enter and advance in the workforce, the city can begin to steady its fiscal base while blurring economic, racial, and geographic divides.