Why I Enjoy Raising My Daughter in DC


DC’s Rankings

In March 2021, YouGov released a survey ranking the 50 states in the U.S.  According to the results of this survey, Americans ranked Washington DC #51, the worst state (well, we are technically not even a state but that will have to be another blog).

Love Washington, DC

As a data professional, I naturally wondered about the demographics of the 1,211 US adults who responded to the survey.  It turns out that the ranking was greatly influenced by partisanship.  So I decided to share my own reasons for raising my daughter in this beloved city of mine.

A few weeks ago, my 8-year-old daughter told me that she loved the “town” we lived in and I asked her why.  She said it was because of the nice people who set up the swings for children in our neighborhood, who care about others, and who help–in addition to the great things she could do.  It turned out her reasons were not too far off from mine.

DC People

According to Census based on 2019 data collected, Washington DC has a population of over 700k, which has been steadily growing since 2011.  It also has one of the most diverse populations in the country with 42.5% white comparing to 60.1% in the US.  See chart below:

Race US DC
non-Hispanic white 60.10% 42.50%
Hispanic and Latino 18.50% 11.30%
Black or African American 13.40% 45.40%
Asian 5.90% 4.10%
two or more races 2.80% 3.00%
Native Americans and Alaska Natives 1.30% 0.30%
Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders 0.20% 0.00%

source: https://data.census.gov/cedsci/profile?g=0400000US11

Although race is not the only measurement of diversity, it is a data point to gauge the level of openness of a community.  I have lived in far less diverse parts of the country and was routinely aware of my differences from the majority of the people around me.  Personally, I was never subjected to any discrimination that I was aware of, but the feeling of not belonging was present often.

Growing up with diversity

Children who grow up in diverse communities are more accustomed to people who look and think differently.  They are then less likely to feel threatened by the differences or to extract values from being less different.  As a result, they feel freer to accept their own uniqueness and to give others the freedom to be who they are as well. My daughter is in grade school.  This is a crucial stage to build confidence in her ability to meet challenges in life, self-image, and a sense of empowerment.  I value the diverse community we live in and I hope it helps her to embrace her uniqueness as a strength with a purpose.  More importantly, I want her to love her neighbors regardless of how different they might look or think. Every human being has the dignity and identity of being an image-bearer.

Investments in Children

Another reason that I like DC is that DC Government invests in children.  It is the only jurisdiction in the US that offers free preschool for children ages 3 and 4.  Research shows that early childhood education provides significant benefits to both children and mothers.   In addition, the Smithsonian has 19 world-class museums, galleries, gardens, and a zoo with various educational programs for children throughout the year.  They are open to the public for free.  Exposure to arts and science is critical to childhood development and it should not be limited to only children and families with financial means.  I don’t believe this level of accessibility is offered anywhere else in the world.  It is true that the Smithsonian is funded by the federal government, but the DC government is not allowed to collect taxes on any federal entities and buildings located in DC.

Smithsonian Washington, DC

Free reading and outdoor play

DC also offers great parks and library services.  It has over 100 playgrounds throughout the city.  A multi-million dollar initiative called Play DC provided funding for the construction and renovation of these playgrounds in recent years. There are also 26 libraries in DC, and 19 of them have been built or renovated since 2009.  The city allocates more budget to these two programs than two of its surrounding counties with higher median income level.  See the total FY20 annual budget allocation below:

Program DC Montgomery County Fairfax County
Park  $      60.70M  $        46.50M  $        28.00M
Library  $      70.70M  $        42.70M  $        30.30M

Source: Approved 2020 Budgets

Comparing the total budget is not the most accurate comparison due to population differences.  For comparative purposes, the budget allocation per capita is shown below:

Program DC Montgomery County Fairfax County
Park  $          86.01  $               44.56  $         24.44
Library  $        100.18  $               40.92  $         26.44

Source: Population data obtained from https://data.census.gov

The budget allocation per capita age under 18 provides a more precise comparison on the level of investments made in children.

Program DC Montgomery County Fairfax County
Park  $         474.59  $             190.90  $      103.62
Library  $         552.77  $             175.30  $      112.13


Budget matters

I have always believed that a government’s budget reflects its priorities, so I am thankful that I live in a city that invests in children and families.  Obviously, like many cities, DC has its own set of challenges.  We have higher rates of child poverty  and crime than the national average.  Our housing is not affordable.  These are areas that require our government officials and all of us to effectuate changes through public policy, community engagement & partnership, and personal accountability.

Love for Washington DC

I have lived in the US for over 30 years and the last ten have been in DC.  My daughter is considered a DC-native.  Not only we have benefited from the investments this city has made, but it has also given me the deepest sense of community and belonging.  We are thankful for our friendly neighborhood community, loving school, and church community.  It is my hope that we can continue to help build this great city and be good neighbors to others.

Love Washington, DC