Past immigrants came straight into the heart of American cities and built neighborhoods that became famous for their ethnic coloration—the Irish in South Boston, Jews in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Italians around the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.
Not so now: Nine out of ten of Washington’s newest immigrants have bypassed DC and are living in the suburbs. Fairfax and Montgomery counties, which were mostly farmland before World War II, each have more than 250,000 foreign-born residents—in each case more than a quarter of their total population.
The region’s Asians, nearly half a million in all, are the best example of the dispersal into the suburbs. Many are professionals affluent enough to own homes and are attracted to high-quality schools and lower crime rates in Annandale, RockÂville, Gaithersburg, North Potomac, and other suburbs. Koreans and Vietnamese are more numerous in Fairfax County, while Chinese are more numerous in Montgomery. Other groups are spread on both sides of the Potomac, including Indians, Iranians, Pakistanis, and Filipinos, who have a strong presence in southern Prince George’s.
The region’s Hispanic population, which numbers nearly 600,000, has until recently stayed closer in: DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, the region’s first Latino enclave, still has large numbers. But many more, who have menial jobs with low wages, are crowded into lower-rent garden apartments inside the Beltway in places like South Arlington, Arlandria, Langley Park, and Hyattsville.
Many Africans as well as Jamaicans and other West Indians have blended into African-American neighborhoods in DC and Prince George’s. Russian immigrants, many Jewish, have ended up in Montgomery County, which has large numbers of native-born Jews. Muslims are scattered enough to support mosques in both Virginia and Maryland.
There’s some shrinkage of Washington’s first enclaves of new immigrants, attributable mostly to gentrification. Little Saigon in Clarendon has all but disappeared; the famous Queen Bee restaurant closed earlier this year. DC’s Chinatown has an impressive traditional arch but is increasingly overshadowed by national chain stores, and most Chinese now live in Rockville, Gaithersburg, North Potomac, and other suburbs. In Adams Morgan, the old Kilimanjaro nightclub has been converted to an upscale fitness center.
Large numbers of immigrants are also settling in the exurbs. Prince William, Loudoun, Howard, and Frederick counties have added a total of 61,000 Hispanics and 46,000 Asians over the past five years. —Larry Van Dyne
How Communities Compare
|Jurisdiction||White #||White %||Black #||Black %||Hispanic #||Hispanic %||Asian #||Asian #||Foreign-born #||Foreign-born %|
|District of Columbia||176,000||31%||343,000||60%||45,000||8%||15,000||3%||74,000||13%|
|United States||215 million||75%||35 million||12%||42 million||15%||12 million||â€‡4%||36 million||12%|
Source: 2000 and 2005 census figures, US Census Bureau
5 Langley Park/Hyattsville
7 Adams Morgan/Mount Pleasant
9 Baileys Crossroads
10 South Arlington
Source: 2000 census, US Census Bureau