Who Can Claim ‘Native Washingtonian’ Status?

Mr. T in DC / Flickr

A D.C. flag painted on a planter on gentrified H Street NE.

Most newcomers to D.C. hail from from far-away places, not nearby suburbs, according to newly-released census estimates. More than double the number of people who moved into D.C. from Maryland and Virginia came from outside the region, such as New York and California.

While the nation has seen its population increase because of the rise of racial minorities, D.C.’s population has grown because of whites moving into the city. At the same time, the District’s black community has shrunk. And those leaving D.C. mostly move to places like Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, according to the census estimates.

All of these numbers makes me wonder about what it means to be a “native Washingtonian.” It’s a term that carries plenty of clout in this transient city, and especially in light of gentrification, it’s become code for “non-gentrifier.” But as the city swells with folks who hail from so far away, could local newcomers claim some of that clout, too? Take me, for example: I was born in D.C. and grew up in Maryland. I moved into the District a few years ago, but D.C. news, arts and politics have been a big part of my adult life. At the same time, I acknowledge that my childhood was marked more by rolling, rural hills than by city streets. Am I no different than someone who moved from, say, the Midwest?

Anyway, check out the full list of places from where D.C. newcomers hail and click through our map of movement throughout the D.C. region:

Movement Patterns In The D.C.-Area

*Map and list courtesy of Brendan Sweeney/The Kojo Nnamdi Show. Source: American Community Survey.
  • http://twitter.com/monkeyrotica monkeyrotica

    I think it’s kinda like “Native American.” Unless you’re born and raised on the rez, you’re just a poseur.

  • http://twitter.com/alicemthornton Alice Thornton

    Hate to go all “birther” here, but your birth certificate must list the hospital (or house number, if you were born early in the last century like my parents) you were born here as being within DC proper. For instance, I was born at Columbia Hospital for Women (yes, it ages me a bit); I like to point out to newcomers that I was born in the condo building with the Trader Joe’s.

  • Shiba Fussa

    What if this article was written in 1859?  Or 1793? Or 1634?  I guess its defined in what century you write this article.

  • E in Rosedale

    I fall into pretty much the same category as you Elahe.  I was raised in Bladensburg/Hyattsville before moving on to other parts of the country and finally settling back in DC about 8 years ago.  I wouldn’t put myself in the same category as someone that was born in DC and never left, but I’m certainly more connected than someone who moved from Iowa 6 months ago.  

    Really though, what qualifies you as a Washingtonian for me is getting a license, buying a place and getting a job (in or around DC for the job).  In other words, putting down serious roots.  

  • http://westnorth.com/ Payton

    Looks like the Census link is broken; here’s the correct one.

    For the geeks out there, it’s from ACS. Similar figures are available from the IRS, but taxpayers != residents.

  • Alice Thornton

    Most “native” Washingtonians don’t even live here anymore (native = having been born here). I stuck around, but most of my family left for other climes. We needed to bring in new people to increase the tax base. I guess with this being the Nation’s Capital it would naturally be transient. Very few that I know of (including me) work for the government, either District or Federal, so you’ll find most of us either in creative or non-profit fields.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VC26IZNURPOE5E3NI7CQK5V3QY Joey D

    So, all those folks in my neighborhood who cheat the DC government out of whatever little tax revenue they would provide by faking Murland residency, even though they’ve lived here their whole lives, don’t count as “natives”?  Awesome, maybe they can stop acting like entitled a——– now.

  • Ward 5′s Baby Boy

    Great response, I was born in Providence Hospital (the new one) and am a fourth generation Washingtonian.  My Mother was the last group born in the old one and her mother was born there as well.  I’m a native and damn proud of it.  Raised in the city and did some schooling in PG County but got married and purchased my home in the city with my wife.  There is nothing like DC…..

  • Heather Williams

    I was born in the District and I own a home in city today.  Of my friends and coworkers, I don’t know anyone else who can say the same. Even my husband, who considers himself a Native Son, was born in Montgomery County.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnthonyLorenzoDC Anthony Lorenzo

    I was born and raised in DC. Still live here, dont plan leaving anytime soon. So, yes, that makes me a Native Washingtonian. 

  • Janthony11

    I’ve always been turned off by this debate, as well as proud of my home town before it became a hip, trendy place to live, while Barry was mayor – again – and before baseball returned and the Caps rocked the red.
    Turned off because this is almost exclusively an upper class caucasian conversation. (Disclosure: I am white) Poll residents east of Rock Creek Park, in SW and Anacostia and I imagine that 60+ percent of residents are natives.
    I remember telling anyone who would listen in the early to mid 90′s that the secret of quality of life in DC was bound to get out before long. And that was before the resurgence led by the financial reforms of under-appreciated Mayor Anthony Williams, and not all that long after years of 500+ annual murders, largely driven by the scourge of crack cocaine.
    DC has become an even more dynamic place to live, even if the fundamental appeal is the same: great weather 9 months out of the year; world class museums; unique green space and proximity to the outdoors and wilderness; close to the ocean, and at the seat of so much of our nation’s history, etc.
    Native to me means that you were either:
    born and raised in DC proper, call that 1A.
    Or born in the close-in suburbs of Maryland and moved into the city after reaching adulthood, 2A or 2B, depending upon where you grew up and how long you have lived in the city.
    Virginia doesn’t count in my estimation, since it’s on the wrong side of the river, not to mention the fact that the state reclaimed the land they pledged to the fledgling capital. Hence, Arlington County as the southern part of the 10 mile diamond.
    In my case, I was born in DC, raised 100 yards over the line in Bethesda, Western Avenue. My entire childhood involved exploring and outings to Friendship Heights, Tenleytown, etc. “Downtown” Bethesda was never a draw. Then my parents divorced and my father moved to Adams Morgan, and then Georgetown. I have lived and worked in the city for 13 out of 16 years since college.
    During a friends wedding some years ago, I commandeered the microphone from an under-informed tourist mobile driver – to rave reviews.
    This explains why I claim native status. But I fully recognize that it comes with an asterisk, however small.

  • John

    Guess I am old too. I was born at Columbia Hospital for Women in April 1968