Reading the Census tea leaves

The Census 2010 numbers have been coming out over the past few weeks, unleashing the usual torrent of stories looking back on how our country has changed over the last decade. The Census tracts for the District are not expected to come out until late this month or early March, but we can already make some basic predictions with confidence. The District is a much more diverse place than ever -- the Census numbers will reflect the city's increasing Hispanic population and diminishing black majority. It will also most certainly show a baby boom across the city, but concentrated in particular zip codes.

And as in Virginia, I would venture to guess that more and more D.C. residents are counting themselves or their offspring as "multiracial" -- not the least of them being the prominent family at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Certainly, the Census is a useful tool to look back and see how we've changed as a city. But our challenge is to read what it means for the District moving forward. What do the changing demographic trends mean for social services and advocacy? We need to challenge ourselves to not only respond to these latest numbers, but to project where they are headed and where we must go as a city. [Read Colby King's powerful column from this weekend on the dwindling number of two-parent black families. His point in a nutshell: the Census tells us what we already know are our problems, but what are we willing to do about the underlying causes?] 

Already, community-based service providers across the District are finding they need to be responsive and reflect their changing neighborhoods. More families need Spanish-language access. An untold number may be undocumented immigrants or their children with unique concerns; The Census Bureau urged undocumented immigrants to participate, but it is probable that many did not out of fear.

Of course, it is impossible to avoid the fact that the Census tracts are the basis for congressional districts and D.C. has no vote. But we cannot miss this opportunity to represent ourselves through the only means we have: advocacy. We are D.C., we stood up and were counted. Now what?

In anticipation of the Census release, we will be compiling some questions we hope to answer. Please let us know if there are things you hope to learn or types of analysis you would like to see.