lack of visibility and ability to focus on a particular problem area,” says City Councilman Adrian Fenty. “A lot of it is long-time perceptions and some of it is the need for continued management improvement.”
The district maintains its No. 2 spot with respondents optimistic about career and business opportunities. It has the second lowest black unemployment rate, at 7.6%, of the top 10–well below the national average of 10.2%.
African Americans, who constitute 60% of Washington’s total population, are among the nation’s best educated and highest paid. The city tops the list with 81.3% of African Americans holding high school diplomas and places first with 24.1% earning bachelor’s degrees. The metropolitan area boasts the highest black household incomes among the top 10 and 45.7% of black families earn $50,000-plus.
Respondents expressed concern over the high cost of living, and rightly so. Washington’s cost of living index, which is 125.4%, places it well above the national average and is the highest of all the cities on BE’s list. Many of the city’s 120 neighborhoods are experiencing gentrification. As a result, property values are off the charts. While a little more than 50% of African American residents own homes, the average home price is $354,663, compared to $178,851 for Houston and $236,567 for the national average. Even the average apartment rents for almost twice that of other cities.
Respondents were extremely pleased with entrepreneurial opportunities. Black Washingtonians own 10,909 of the city’s 45,297 businesses. “We have tried to set up an environment where [you] can flourish, whether you’re a one-person shop or a large firm,” says Chris Bender of the Office of Planning and Economic Development. –J.J.
Government, professional associations, financial services, healthcare, media, and tourism
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, African American Civil War Memorial, Black Fashion Museum, Mary McLeod Bethune Council House
Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference
Top Black Officials
Anthony A. Williams, mayor; Eleanor Holmes Norton, U.S. Rep.; Charles H. Ramsey, chief of police; Adrian H. Thompson, fire chief
African American professionals can build prosperous careers in the capital city, especially those hoping to play a role in national politics. “There’s a mentality here that there’s enough for everyone; you’re not competing for what feels like a limited number of opportunities,” says 29-year-old Muthoni Wambu.
Like most Washingtonians, Wambu is a transplant. She left New York City’s Upper West Side to study journalism at Howard University and then networked her way into a political fundraising job with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This was a new aspect of politics for Wambu, who soon discovered that it “brought together my strengths in a way that I’d never anticipated.”
In 2000, Wambu and Vera Baker, another Howard alum, started Baker-Wambu & Associates. The firm has raised over $3 million for the campaigns of members of Congress and other politicians. “Washington is the best place for our firm to blossom and grow, and one of the only cities where two 24-year-old African American women [could have built a successful business] with pennies and a dream,” she says.