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2006 Who We Are: Where Immigrants Are Living
Nine of ten immigrants live in the suburbs, some in their own ethnic enclaves but many others in racially mixed neighborhoods. Many find homes inside the Beltway, but thousands have headed for the exurbs. By Larry Van Dyne
Comments () | Published October 1, 2006

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, Rock­ville, 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%
Northern Virginia                    
Fairfax County 682,000 68% 92,000  9% 126,000 13% 158,000 16% 271,000 27%
Arlington 142,000 74 15,000  8 31,000 16 17,000  9 47,000 25
Alexandria 91,000 68 27,000 20 18,000 14 8,000  6 35,000 26
Falls Church 9,000 85 300  3 1,000  8 1,000  7 2,000 16
Fairfax City 16,000 73 1,000  5 3,000 14 3,000 12 5,000 25
Loudoun 188,000 74 18,000  7 24,000  9 30,000 12 49,000 19
Prince William 217,000 63 67,000 19 63,000 18 23,000  7 67,000 19
Manassas 25,000 72 5,000 13 5,000 15 1,000  3 5,000 14
Manassas Park 7,000 73 1,000 11 2,000 15 400  4 2,000 15
Stafford 87,000 75 20,000 17 8,000  7 3,000  2 10,000  9
Fauquier 49,000 88 5,000  9 1,000  2 300  1 2,000  4
Spotsylvania 93,000 80 15,000 13 6,000  5 2,000  2 5,000  5
Fredericksburg 14,000 73 4,000 20 1,000  5 300  2 1,000  5
Suburban Maryland                    
Montgomery 563,000 61% 145,000 16% 125,000 14% 120,000 13% 268,000 29%
Prince George’s 179,000 22 543,000 66 90,000 11 31,000  4 144,000 17
Howard 184,000 69 41,000 16 11,000  4 29,000 11 39,000 15
Frederick County 184,000 85 15,000  7 10,000  5 6,000  3 14,000  7
Anne Arundel 392,000 79 69,000 14 18,000  4 15,000  3 28,000  6
Charles 81,000 59 47,000 34 4,000  3 4,000  3 6,000  4
Calvert 73,000 84 11,000 13 2,000  2 1,000  1 3,000  3
Metro area 3,068,000 54% 1,460,000 26% 578,000 10% 459,000  8% 1,077,000 20%
United States 215 million 75% 35 million 12% 42 million 15% 12 million  4% 36 million 12%

Source: 2000 and 2005 census figures, US Census Bureau

Immigrant Enclaves
1 Gaithersburg
2 Rockville
3 Wheaton
4 Colesville
5 Langley Park/Hyattsville
6 Riverdale/Bladensburg
7 Adams Morgan/Mount Pleasant
8 Annandale
9 Baileys Crossroads
10 South Arlington
11 Landmark
Source: 2000 census, US Census Bureau

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 10/01/2006 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles