My objective for week #3 was to learn about the health of Chinatown residents, workers, and visitors. This includes their socioeconomic status, local environment, and access to food, childcare, and education.

CityLab's definition of "Healthy People" in livable cities.

DC Demographics

It's hard to find data specifically on Chinatown residents. Tracking the wider DC community, however, is easy thanks to the U.S. Census and Open Data DC.

By comparing DC, other major U.S. cities, and U.S.-wide census data, we can draw key ways in which DC stands out nationally.  

  • Race: DC is a black-plurality city, with residents identifying as 44.7% black (alone) and 36.7% white (alone, not Hispanic or Latino). U.S.-wide figures, on the other hand are 13.6% black and 58.9% white. Even looking at cities, DC is an outlier here, with the eight largest black population in the country.
  • Education: DC has a significant concentration of college educated residents at 61.4% compared to the U.S. average of 33.7%, NYC at 39.6%, LA at 36.2%, Boston at 52.1%, and Chicago at 41.7%.
  • Income: DC's median household income is very high at $93,547 compared with the U.S. median of $69,021. This income advantage shows in per capita figures as well, with DC at $63,793 and U.S. at $37,638. NYC, LA, Boston, and Chicago all showed income figures similar to U.S.-wide figures. However, DC has a higher poverty rate of 15.4% compared to 11.5% nationally, which follows a trend of major cities having an elevated 15-17% poverty rate.
  • Housing: DC housing costs far more than the U.S. median. The median value of owner-occupied housing units in DC is $635,900 compared to the USA's $244,900. This contributes to DC's lower owner-occupied housing rate of 41.5% while USA's rate is 64.6%.

We can connect this data to local health. Clearly any issues disproportionately affecting black people or communities will feature prominently in DC. The same principle likewise applies to increases in apartment rents and student loan policies.

There are some sources like Point2Homes, a Canada-based real estate company, that provide specific details on Chinatown residents. The accuracy of this data, however, is unclear.

Rat Infestation

DC is full of rats. The D.C. Department of Health leads the fight against them. DOH reported 13,000 service-request calls in 2022. As of July 2023, this year's requests have already reached 11,000. As shown in the map below, this is indeed a Chinatown problem. In conversations with locals, I've heard that Chinatown restaurants struggle to manage the infestation.

DC 311 Service Request Map with pins on "Rodent/Insect Control" and "Rodent Inspection and Treatment" requests. 

Parks, Trails, & the Potomac River

Healthy people are connected to nature. Fortunately, DC has several excellent parks, primarily located along the outskirts of the city. There are also walking and biking trails that connect DC to the Virginia and Maryland suburbs.

The Potomac River offers DC residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy water activities, see wildlife, and walk along the shore. It has been terribly polluted for decades, but is slowly but steadily recovering.