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As the DMV Region Grows, Many Residents Struggle to Keep Up

As the DMV Region Grows, Many Residents Struggle to Keep Up

Story Highlights

  • Affordable housing receives the lowest marks among DMV resources
  • Worries about paying rent, mortgage rise to majority-level concern
  • Nearly one in five DMV residents have struggled to afford food, medicine

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Greater Washington region, encompassing the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland and Virginia, is growing more rapidly than other major metropolitan areas in the Northeast, such as New York and Boston, according to a Brookings analysis based on U.S. Census data. Residents of the DMV, the commonly used acronym for the region, are aware the area is in a state of transition, but they are not necessarily optimistic about what the changes will bring and who will benefit from them.

In partnership with the Greater Washington Community Foundation, Gallup surveyed residents of the region on key economic stability measures, as well as other issues facing the DMV. The findings are included in the upcoming VoicesDMV Community Insights report, which highlights that, as the region continues to transform, many DMV residents lack access to basic needs and harbor anxiety about being able to pay for them.

Great disparities exist in the region between jurisdictions and racial demographic groups on many measures. The issue of housing, however, is a challenge experienced regionwide, with the availability of affordable housing receiving poor marks across jurisdictions, and concerns about rent and mortgage payments having risen to a level that impacts most DMV residents.

With Affordable Housing Scarce, Worries About Being Able to Pay Are Elevated

DMV residents give the lowest ratings, by far, to the availability of affordable housing among an array of local resources and amenities they were polled on -- and these low ratings are consistent across all jurisdictions.

All other items on the list receive positive ratings from majorities of residents, including the second-lowest-rated item, the overall quality of public schools (59%), which receive “excellent” or “good” ratings from most DMV residents.


Additionally, the region’s worries about being able to pay rent or mortgage have grown substantially from 2020 to 2023. Just before the pandemic (the previous survey’s field period concluded in mid-January 2020), less than a third of residents (31%) said they were “very” or “somewhat worried” about not being able to pay their rent or mortgage. Today, a majority (52%) express this level of concern, which is consistent across all jurisdictions in the region.


Nearly One in Five DMV Residents Have Struggled to Afford Food, Medicine

In addition to worrying about not being able to pay for basic needs like housing, many DMV residents aren’t able to pay.

Nearly one in five residents in the DMV say there have been times in the past year when they did not have enough money to buy healthcare or medicine (18%), or food for themselves or their family (18%), while about one in 10 say they were unable to provide adequate shelter (11%).

Within the DMV, people’s reports of struggling to afford food are highest in D.C. (30%) and neighboring Prince George’s County, Maryland (27%), where more than one in four residents report having run out of money for food in the past year. One in four residents in Prince George’s County also report having experienced times when they could not afford healthcare or medicine (25%), the highest rate in the region.


Black and Hispanic residents are more likely than other racial subgroups to report struggling to afford basic needs -- including more than a third who say they have not had enough money to buy food and more than a quarter who did not have enough money for healthcare or medicine.


Intergenerational Wealth Elusive for Many DMV Residents

Most residents in the DMV (58%) say they are “better off” than their parents were when their parents were their age -- a slight increase from 52% in 2020. A small majority (54%) also believe they will be able to pass on an inheritance to their children -- such as money, land, a home or other valuable assets. But these expectations are not equally shared throughout the region.

Solid majorities in Loudoun County (70%), Arlington County and Alexandria (66%), and Fairfax County (62%) think they will be able to transfer some of their wealth to the next generation. Meanwhile, less than half of residents in Montgomery (49%) and Prince George’s counties (38%) believe they will be able to pass on such assets.

Analyzing this measure across racial groups, about three in four White residents (74%) expect to pass on an inheritance, while a small majority of Asian residents (53%) say the same. But less than half of Hispanic residents (45%) believe they will be able to pass on an inheritance, and Black residents (38%) are the least likely racial group to say they will be able to do so.

Bottom Line

Economic instability has been a consistent theme in Gallup’s and The Greater Washington Community Foundation’s research across pre- and post-pandemic measures, revealing inequalities that could persist or even expand if unaddressed as the DMV region continues to change. While many residents struggle with meeting even their most basic needs, including food and housing, their challenges are compounded by additional barriers to employment -- such as access to childcare -- or barriers to financial goals, such as credit scores or financial history.

These findings demonstrate the need for programs and services that help residents catch up and keep up financially, move up the economic ladder and, ultimately, build wealth.

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