Metropolitan neighborhoods constantly change. Researchers, however, often have little data with which to explain processes of change because they typically collect data on the process only after it has occurred. Therefore, it becomes difficult to explain changes that matter for both researchers and policy-makers, including the causes and consequences of gentrification (and the simultaneous suburbanization of poverty); flows of immigrants to new destinations; why neighborhoods experience increases or decreases of crime and violence; and patterns of economic activity. Research, including research to inform contemporary policy, suffers in the absence of timely data on these topics and will suffer on those yet to emerge.
With colleagues at American University, I have launched D.C. Area Study (DCAS) as a means to develop timely data on Washington-area residents and socio-economic processes. The DCAS is an annual survey of residents in the District of Columbia and its surrounding counties (Montgomery and Prince Georges in Maryland, Arlington and Fairfax in Virginia, and the independent city of Alexandria). The DCAS comprises two components. The first component consists of questions asked in every year of the survey to measure annual trends among the metropolitan population. The second component consists of questions that varied across years of the survey that would allow researchers to investigate specific topics within the metropolitan area.
We conducted a pilot in the spring of 2016 and released a report of the results in October 2016. The results also showed that almost all D.C.-area residents were very or extremely satisfied with their neighborhoods; this was true regardless of the respondents’ race. But, the results revealed several conclusions pertinent to understanding racial disparities in the D.C. area including profound racial differences in fear of police questioning or arrest and fear of deportation and socioeconomic differences in the perceived availability of non-profits.