Saturday, April 26, 2014

Interesting Graphs about 1980s/1990s DC

The Wire City narrative presents cities like Baltimore and DC as emerging out of a past of chaos and devastation. The show "The Wire" repeats the narrative that the city was destroyed, but now it is finally recovered and vibrant. With the riots in 1968, the murder rates of the past, and the problems since then, DC seems like a prime example of a city once in decline and in chaos, which is now on the upswing. I happened upon a 1998 report written by Craig Johnson and John Mikesell, professors at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, about the financial state of the District leading up to the take over by the Control Board in 1995.(1) In general, they criticized the financial affairs of DC. However, these graphs were surprising.

In Figure 1, we can see per capita income in DC (black bars) and in the US (white bars) from 1986 to 1995. Over this period, per capita income is continually increasing, except in 1991 (the middle bar). DC income is also always above the national per capital income level:

In Figure 2, we can see the Total Annual Assessed Valuation of Commercial (black bars) and Residential (white bars) Property from 1986 to 1995. We can see the assessed value of both forms of property increasing through 1992. Residential value is still increasing until 1995, while commercial property values are decreasing:

In Figure 3, we can a significant drop in construction and the value of construction from 1988 to 1995:

In Figure 4, we can see the DC Operating Deficits from 1986 to 1995. The DC government is operating at a deficit in 1990 and 1994. In 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, and 1993, the DC government was operating with a surplus:

So, was DC on an upswing through the 1980s? through the 1970s and the 1980s? What happened in 1994 and 1995? I'm not suggesting that a downturn could happen any moment, rather I am asking: Have the narratives of the DC's past been incorrect? And what have people done based on these perceptions of DC's past?

(1) Johnson, Craig L., and John L. Mikesell. 1998. The Collapse of Federal Fiscal Home Rule in the District of Columbia: An Analysis of Municipal Financial Condition. Bloomington, Ind: School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University.

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