Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.
—  Federal district  —
District of Columbia
Top left: Healy Hall at Georgetown University; top right: U.S. Capitol; middle: Washington Monument; bottom left: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site; bottom right: African American Civil War Memorial
Top left: Healy Hall at Georgetown University; top right: U.S. Capitol; middle: Washington Monument; bottom left: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site; bottom right: African American Civil War Memorial
Flag of Washington, D.C.
Official seal of Washington, D.C.
Motto: Justitia Omnibus (Justice for All)
Location of Washington, D.C., in the United States and in relation to the states of Maryland and Virginia.
Location of Washington, D.C., in the United States and in relation to the states of Maryland and Virginia.
Coordinates: 38°54′N 77°02′W
Country United States
Federal district District of Columbia
Approved July 16, 1790
Organized 1801
Consolidated 1871
Granted limited self-government 1973
Named for George Washington
 - Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D)
 - D.C. Council Kwame R. Brown (D), Chair
 - Federal district 68.3 sq mi (177.0 km²)
 - Land 61.4 sq mi (159.0 km²)
 - Water 6.9 sq mi (18.0 km²)
Elevation 0–409 ft (0–125 m)
Population (2011 estimate)[1][2]
 - Federal district 617,996 (24th in U.S.)
 - Density 10,065/sq mi (3,886/km²)
 - Metro 5.58 million (7th in U.S.)
 - Demonym Washingtonian
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code(s) 20001-20098, 20201-20599
Area code(s) 202
Website: www.dc.gov

Washington, D.C. is the capital city of the United States of America. "D.C." is an abbreviation for the District of Columbia, the federal district coextensive with the city of Washington. The city is named after George Washington, military leader of the American Revolution and the first president of the United States. Columbia in this context is an early poetic name for the United States of America, a reference to Christopher Columbus, an early European explorer of the Americas.

The city is commonly referred to as Washington, The District, or simply D.C. In the nineteenth century, it was called the Federal City or Washington City.

The centers of all three branches of the U.S. federal government are in the District. It also serves as the headquarters for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other national and international institutions including labor unions and professional associations.


While the population of the District of Columbia is about 581,530 persons, the entire metropolitan area is the eighth largest in the United States with more than five million residents. If one includes the Baltimore metropolitan area, the population exceeds eight million.


The city of Washington, D.C. has a total area of 68.3 square miles (177.0 km²). It is surrounded by the states of Maryland (on its southeast, northeast, and northwest sides) and Virginia (on its western side). The District of Columbia has three major natural flowing streams: The Potomac River and its tributaries the Anacostia River and Rock Creek. Tiber Creek, a watercourse that once passed through the National Mall, was fully enclosed underground during the 1870s.[3]

The highest point in the District of Columbia is 410 feet (125 m) above sea level at Tenleytown. The lowest point is sea level, which occurs along the Anacostia and Potomac shores.

Washington's climate is typical of the Mid-Atlantic states, with four distinct seasons. Summer tends to be hot and humid with daily high temperatures in July and August averaging in the high 80s to low 90s F (30° to 33° C). The combination of heat and humidity makes thunderstorms frequent in the summer. Spring and fall are mild, with high temperatures in April and October averaging in the high 60s to low 70s (about 20 °C). Winter brings sustained cool temperatures and occasional heavy snow, though light snowfall is more common. Spring is generally the most favorable time of year, with low humidity, mild temperatures, and blooming foliage.

Approximately 19.4 percent of Washington, D.C. is parkland, slightly behind New York City's 19.6 percent, giving D.C the second highest percentage of parkland among high-density U.S. cities.[4] The U.S. National Park Service manages most of the natural habitat in Washington, D.C., including Rock Creek Park, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, the National Mall, Theodore Roosevelt Island, and Anacostia Park. The only significant area of natural habitat not managed by the National Park Service is the U.S. National Arboretum, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Great Falls of the Potomac River are located upstream, northwest of Washington. During the nineteenth century, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which begins in Georgetown, was used to allow barge traffic to bypass the falls.[5]


Cherry blossoms along Washington, DC's tidal basin.

In 1912, the city of Washington received 3,000 cherry trees as a gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. The first two of these trees were planted in a simple ceremony on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in the city's West Potomac Park. In 1935, civic groups sponsored the first annual Cherry Blossom Festival. In 1965, 3,800 additional trees were accepted by First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson.[6] Today, the city is well known for its springtime phenomena of blossoming cherry trees, which attract tourism, a major source of revenue for the city.

The architecture of the city varies greatly. Six of the top ten buildings in the American Institute of Architects' 2007 ranking of "America's Favorite Architecture" are located in the District of Columbia,[7] including: The White House; the Washington National Cathedral; the Thomas Jefferson Memorial; the United States Capitol; the Lincoln Memorial; and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The neoclassical, Georgian, gothic, and modern architectural styles are all reflected among those six structures and many other prominent edifices in Washington. Notable exceptions include buildings constructed in the French Second Empire style such as the Old Executive Office Building and Library of Congress.[8]

Beyond the downtown area of Washington, architectural styles are even more varied. Historic buildings are designed primarily in the Queen Anne, Châteauesque, Richardsonian Romanesque, Georgian revival, Beaux-Arts, and a variety of Victorian styles. Rowhouses constructed of locally made red brick are especially prominent in areas developed after the Civil War and typically follow Federalist and late Victorian designs.[9] Since Georgetown was established before the city of Washington, the neighborhood features the District's oldest architecture. Georgetown's Old Stone House was built in 1765, making it the oldest standing building in the city.[10] The majority of current homes in the neighborhood, however, were not built until the 1870s and reflect late Victorian designs of the period. Founded in 1789, Georgetown University is more distinct from the neighborhood and features a mix of Romanesque and Gothic Revival architecture. The Ronald Reagan Building, completed in 1998, is the largest building in the District with a total area of approximately 3.1 million square feet (288,000 m2).[11]


Washington, D.C. is divided into four quadrants: Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest. The axes bounding the quadrants radiate from the U.S. Capitol building.
Andrew Ellicott's Plan of the City of Washington
Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area road map

The District of Columbia, founded on July 16, 1790, is a federal district as specified by the United States Constitution. The land forming the original District came from Maryland and Virginia. However, the area south of the Potomac River (39 square miles or about 100 km²) was returned to Virginia in 1847 and was incorporated into Arlington County and the city of Alexandria.

City planning

A southern site for the new country's capital was agreed upon as part of the deal that led to the national government's assumption of debts from the Revolutionary War. (The southern states had largely paid off their war debts; collectivizing debt was to the northern states' advantage, so a southern capital was a compromise.) The city's plan was largely the work of Peter (Pierre) Charles L'Enfant, a French-born architect, engineer, and city planner. The plan incorporated broad avenues and major streets that radiate out from traffic circles, providing vistas toward important landmarks and monuments. While all the original colonies had avenues named for them, the most prominent states received more prestigious locations. The actual site was chosen by President George Washington. The city was officially named "Washington" on September 9, 1791. George Washington never referred to it as such, preferring to call it "the Federal City."

The federal district was named the District of Columbia because Columbia was a poetic name for the United States at the time, which was close to the 300th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the Americas in 1492.

When the site was chosen, the farms and woodlands seemed to be a promising site for a city, with springs, two creeks, and two rivers. Both the creeks and rivers experienced tidal fluctuations and seasonal flooding, but in the early development of the city the draining of lowlands was not a priority. As the city developed, the danger of inadequate drainage, especially around poorly executed building projects, became more apparent. The development of extensive mud flats and marshes came later in the nineteenth century, as settlement and farming upstream led to increased sediment being carried by the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers.

In the early 1820s, after years of extolling the geographical features of the city, those responsible for its development began to explain the weakness of the planning, financing, and construction of the city by referring to "the impenetrable marsh" that had confronted them.[12]

Nineteenth century

On August 24, 1814, Canadian forces under British command burned the capital during the most notable raid of the War of 1812 in retaliation for the sacking and burning of York (modern-day Toronto) during the winter months, which had left many Canadians homeless. President James Madison and U.S. forces fled before the British forces arrived and burned public buildings, including the Capitol and the Treasury building. The White House was burned and gutted.

During the 1830s, the District was home to one of the largest slave trading operations in the country. The slave trade, though not slavery, in the capital was outlawed as part of the Compromise of 1850.

Washington remained a small city—the 1860 census put the population at just over 75,000 persons—until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. The significant expansion of the federal government to administer the war and its legacies, such as veterans' pensions, led to notable growth in the city's population, as did a large influx of freed slaves. By 1870, the District's population had grown to nearly 132,000.

In the early 1870s, Washington was given a territorial government, but Governor Alexander Robey Shepherd's reputation for extravagance resulted in Congress abolishing his office in favor of direct rule. Congressional governance of the District would continue for a century.

Twentieth and twenty-first centuries

Fountain near Dupont Circle
National Cathedral

The many Depression relief agencies created under Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, followed by World War II, brought a great increase to the city's population. The District's population peaked in 1950, when the census recorded a population of 802,178 people. The population declined in the following decades, mirroring the suburban emigration from many of the nation's older urban centers following World War II and the racial integration of public schools.

The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on March 29, 1961, allowing residents of Washington, D.C., to vote for president and have their votes count in the Electoral College as long as the city does not have more electoral votes than the least populous state.

After the assassination of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, riots broke out in some sections of the District. The violence raged for four days, and buildings were burned. At one point, the rioters came within two blocks of the White House. President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered over 13,000 federal troops to occupy the city—the largest occupation of an American city since the Civil War. It took years for the city to recover.

One of the most important developments in bringing people back downtown was the building of the subway system. The first 4.6 miles (7.4 km) of the Washington Metro subway system opened on March 27, 1976. Today the system knits together Washington and its suburbs with a network of 86 stations and 106.3 miles (171.1 km) of track.

In 1973, Congress enacted the District of Columbia Self-Rule and Governmental Reorganization Act, providing for an elected mayor and council for the District. As a result, African-American Walter Washington became the first elected mayor of the District in 1975. Marion Barry became mayor in 1979 and served three successive terms; however, after his arrest for illegal drug use in an FBI sting operation on January 18, 1990, and his sentence to a six-month jail term, he did not seek re-election. His successor, Sharon Pratt Kelly, became the first black woman to lead a U.S. city of Washington's size and importance. Barry, however, ran again in 1994, defeating her in the Democratic primary and once again becoming mayor. During his fourth term, the city nearly became insolvent and was forced to give up some home rule to a congressionally-appointed financial control board. In 1998, Anthony A. Williams was elected the city's mayor and led the city into a fiscal recovery. In 2006, Adrian Fenty was elected mayor.

The city has experienced tremendous growth in the areas of Massachusetts Avenue, the Southwest Waterfront, the Shaw/U Street Corridor, and H Street, with tens of thousands of condos, apartments, and retail shops opening.

A view from the top of the Washington Monument. Looking east toward the Capitol, the dome can be seen. The Smithsonian is on the right.
Crowds surrounding the Reflecting Pool during the 1963 March on Washington.

Law and government

Local government

The John A. Wilson Building houses the offices of the mayor and council of the District of Columbia.

The city is run by an elected mayor and a district council. The council is composed of 13 members: One elected from each of the eight wards and five members, including the chairman, elected at large. The council conducts its work through standing committees and special committees established as needed. District schools are administered by a school board that has both elected and appointed members. There are 37 elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions that provide the most direct access for residents to their local government. The commissions serve as local councils, and their suggestions are required to be given "great weight" by the D.C. Council. However, the U.S. Congress has the right to review and overrule laws created locally and has often done so.

D.C. residents pay federal taxes, such as income tax, as well as high local taxes. The mayor and council adopt a budget of local money with Congress reserving the right to make any changes. Much of the valuable property in the District is federally owned and hence exempt from local property taxes; at the same time, the city is burdened with the extraordinary expenses related to its role as the capital, such as police overtime and street cleaning for D.C.'s frequent parades and festivals. These factors are often used to explain why the city's budget is frequently overstretched. However, the federal government also appropriates funds for the city. For instance, the federal government provided an estimated 25 percent of the District's operating budget in 2003.

Representation in federal government

The U.S. Capitol, seat of the legislative branch of the federal government, sits prominently east of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress direct jurisdiction over Washington, D.C. While Congress has delegated various amounts of this authority to local government, including an elected mayor and city council, Congress still intervenes, from time to time, in local affairs relating to schools, gun control policy, and other issues.

Citizens of the District have no voting representation in Congress. They are represented in the House of Representatives by a non-voting delegate who sits on (and can even chair) committees and participates in floor debate but cannot vote on final passage of any legislation (Walter Fauntroy was the first D.C. Delegate to the House and served for 20 years; Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton is the current Delegate). D.C. has no representation in the Senate. Attempts to change this situation, including statehood and the proposed District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, have been unsuccessful. However, unlike U.S. territories (such as American Samoa and Guam), citizens of the District of Columbia are fully taxed and subject to all U.S. laws. In recent years, "Taxation Without Representation" has been the motto placed on D.C. license plates.

With the passage of the 23rd Amendment in 1961, residents of the District became eligible to vote for president.

Domestic partnerships

The District of Columbia has recognized domestic partnerships since 1992, but Congress withheld funding to implement recognition until 2002. Both same-sex and mixed-sex couples may register. Under the Domestic Partnership Equality Amendment Act of 2006, D.C. Law 16-79, which came into effect on April 4, 2006, in almost all cases a domestic partner will have the same rights as a spouse regarding inheritance, probate, guardianship, and other rights traditionally accorded to spouses. Employees of the District government and their domestic partners are eligible for healthcare coverage and family leave benefits, the same as married couples.


During the violent crime wave of the early 1990s, Washington, D.C., was known as the "murder capital" of the United States, and often rivaled New Orleans in the high number of homicides. But the level of violence declined drastically in the 1990s. In 2007, there were 181 murders, up from 169 in 2006. For 2008, the total appeared to be up 4 percent over the previous year on that date.[13] Some neighborhoods are becoming safe and vibrant areas as a result of financial investment into the housing and retail businesses, a process of gentrification. Crime hot spots have been displaced farther into the eastern sections of Washington, D.C., and across the district line into Prince George's County, Maryland. Although the southeastern side of the city has a longstanding reputation for being unsafe, these crime hot spots are generally concentrated in very specific areas that are associated with drugs and gangs.[14] Other areas experience low levels of crime. New demands to legalize private ownership of handguns in the District reflects increasing pressure to grant District residents full civil rights, including elected representation in Congress.


Unemployment in the District of Columbia, ranging from 1.5 percent in the Northwest to 16.3 percent in the Southeast, reflects the economic disparity that exists across the city.

Washington, D.C. has a growing economy that is also diversifying, with the percentage of federal government jobs expected to decrease over the next decade and an increasing percentage of professional and business service jobs over the same period.[15] With six Fortune 1000 companies (two of which are also Fortune 500 companies),[16], and a large support infrastructure of professional services, including law, public relations, and architecture, Washington, D.C. has become a leading city for global real estate investment, behind London, New York City, and Paris.

As of 2002, the federal government accounted for 27 percent of Washington, D.C.'s jobs.[15] The presence of major government agencies has led to business development in the region.[17] These businesses include federal contractors (defense and civilian), numerous nonprofit organizations, law firms and lobbying firms, national associations of labor and professional groups, catering and administrative services companies, and other industries that are sustained by the economic presence of the federal government.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the gross state product of the District in 2006 was $87.664 billion, ranking it No. 35 when compared with the 50 states. In 2006, Expansion magazine ranked it among the top ten metropolitan areas in the nation for climates favorable to business expansion.[18] Washington, D.C.'s financial regulatory environment is making the city more competitive as a jurisdiction for captive insurance companies and financial institutions to locate and do business. This increasingly popular form of alternative insurance allows large corporations and industry associations to create independent insurance companies to insure their own risks.

Other than the government, major universities and hospitals are among the top employers, with the George Washington University, Georgetown University, and Washington Hospital Center as the top three.


Columbia Heights Metro station

Several major interstates run through the area, intersecting with other major highways. The American Automobile Association for several years has ranked the Washington metro area as having the nation's second worst traffic congestion, surpassed only by Los Angeles.

The Washington area is served by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates the region's subway system, the nation's second-busiest after New York City's subway, as well as Metrobus, which serves D.C. and the immediate closest counties.

Washington, D.C., is served by three major airports; one in Maryland and two in Virginia. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is the closest and is accessible by the Washington Metro. Most major international flights arrive and depart from Washington Dulles International Airport, located 26.3 miles (42.3 km) west of the city in Virginia. Dulles is the second busiest international gateway on the East Coast. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is located 31.7 miles (51.0 km) northeast of the city near Baltimore, Maryland.


A welcome sign on Pennsylvania Avenue
Mount Pleasant Farmer's Market

The 2005 Census Bureau estimate of the city's population was 582,049, marking the first increase in the city's population since 1950.

In 2007, the population distribution was 55.6 percent black, 36.3 percent white, 8.3 percent Hispanic (of any race), 5 percent "other" (including Native Americans, Alaskans, Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders), 3.1 percent Asian, and 1.6 percent mixed (two or more races).[19] Even though they comprise the city's largest ethnic group, Washington has a steadily declining black population, due to many African Americans leaving the city for suburbs. At the same time, the city's white population has steadily increased, in part due to effects of gentrification in many of Washington's traditionally black neighborhoods. This is evident in a 7.3 percent decrease in the African American population, and a corresponding 17.8 percent increase in the Caucasian population since 2000. In 2007, there were an estimated 74,000 foreign immigrants living in Washington, D.C. Major sources of immigration include El Salvador, Vietnam, and Ethiopia.

The population density was 9,316.4 per square mile (3,597.3/km²). According to the Census Bureau, the District's daytime population is estimated at 982,853.[20] The influx of over 410,000 workers into Washington on a normal business day comprises a 72 percent increase of the capital's normal population. That is the largest increase percentage-wise of any city studied and the second-largest net increase, behind only New York City.

The Greater Washington metropolitan area, including contiguous areas of Maryland and Virginia, had an estimated population of 5.8 million in 2003, according to the estimates of the Greater Washington Initiative.

In 2000, about 16.7 percent of families and 20.2 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.1 percent of those under age 18 and 16.4 percent of those over age 65. According to Forbes magazine, in 2005 it was the ninth wealthiest city in the country based on median household income, with over half of its residents having an income of $46,500 a year, and the average home price being $429,900.[21]


A 2007 report found that approximately one-third of the population in Washington, D.C., was functionally illiterate, compared to a rate of about one-fifth nationally.[22] One of the primary reasons was the high growing number of Hispanic and Ethiopian immigrants, many of whom are not proficient in English. Adults 65 and over have the highest rates of illiteracy. On the other hand, over 45 percent of residents have a college degree or higher.[23]


According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of District residents identified themselves as Christian. This breaks down to 27 percent Catholic, 19 percent Baptist, 26 percent other Protestant churches, 13 percent stating "no religion," 4 percent Buddhist, 2 percent Muslim, and 1 percent Jewish.


Elementary and secondary

"Friendship Arch" in Chinatown.

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) operates the city's public school system, which consists of 167 schools and learning centers. In the 2007–2008 school year, 49,076 students were enrolled in the public school system.[24] The city has one of the highest-cost yet lowest-performing school systems in the country, both in terms of infrastructure and student achievement.[25]

Since taking office in 2006, Mayor Adrian Fenty has primarily focused on improving education. He has directly managed and overhauled the city's under-performing public school system. Along with the Schools Superintendent, Chancellor Michelle Rhee,[26] they have made sweeping changes by closing dilapidated and underutilized schools, replacing teachers, firing principals, and using private education firms to aid curriculum development.

Due to the problems with the public schools, enrollment in public charter schools has increased 13 percent each year since 2001.[27] The District of Columbia Public Charter School Board monitors the 60 public charter schools on 97 campuses in the city. The audited enrollment of charter schools in Washington, D.C. for the 2008-2009 school year was 26,494.[28] The District is also home to some of the nation's top private schools. In 2006, approximately 18,000 students were enrolled in the city's 83 private schools.[29]

Colleges and universities

Founders Library at Howard University, a historically black university.

Washington is home to many notable universities, both public and private, including The George Washington University (GW), Georgetown University (GU), American University (AU), The Catholic University of America (CUA), and The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), a graduate school. The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) provides public postsecondary education. It is the nation's only urban land-grant university and is counted among the historically black colleges and universities. CUA is unique as the national university of the Roman Catholic Church and as the only higher education institution founded by U.S. Roman Catholic bishops.

Other notable private colleges in the District include Gallaudet University, the first liberal arts college for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and Howard University, a historically black university dating to the nineteenth century that, among other achievements, trained many early black physicians.


The Jefferson Memorial at dusk.
National Museum of the American Indian.


Washington is home to numerous national landmarks and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. The National Mall is a large, open park area. Located prominently in the center of it is the Washington Monument. Other notable points of interest near the Mall include the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The world-famous Smithsonian Institution is based in the District. The Smithsonian today is a collection of museums that includes the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History, National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait Gallery, and National Zoo.

There are many art museums in D.C., in addition to those that are part of the Smithsonian, including the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Corcoran Gallery of Art, and Phillips Collection.

The Library of Congress and the National Archives house thousands of documents covering every period in American history, including the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

Performing arts

Washington is a major national center for the arts, with many venues for the performing arts in the city. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts hosts the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, the Washington Ballet, and a variety of other musical and stage performances.

Smithsonian Castle
Verizon Center, home of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals

Several notable local music clubs are all in the U Street area. D.C. has its own native music genre, called go-go, a post-funk, percussion-driven flavor of R&B that blends live sets with relentless dance rhythms, so-called because they "go and go and go." Washington was also an important center in the genesis of punk rock in the United States. The region also has a significant indie rock history.


Club Sport League Venue
D.C. United Soccer Major League Soccer, Eastern Conference RFK Stadium
Washington Capitals Hockey NHL, Eastern Conference, Southeast Division Verizon Center
Washington Mystics Basketball WNBA, Eastern Conference Verizon Center
Washington Nationals Baseball Major League Baseball; NL, East Division National Stadium
Washington Redskins Football National Football League; NFC, East Division FedExField (Landover, Maryland)
Washington Wizards Basketball NBA; Eastern Conference, Southeast Division Verizon Center

Washington hosts the annual Legg Mason Tennis Classic tennis tournament. The Marine Corps Marathon and the National Marathon are both held annually in Washington.



The Washington Post is the oldest and most-read daily newspaper in Washington. The more conservative daily, The Washington Times, also has substantial readership. Two free daily newspapers, The Washington Examiner and Express are also distributed, the latter owned by the Washington Post. Several specialty weekly newspapers serve the U.S. Congress and those who work with it; most notable are Roll Call and The Hill. Numerous national and international media outlets maintain bureaus in Washington, some of whose offices at the National Press Club building.


The metro area is served by several local broadcast television stations and is the eighth largest designated market area, with 2,252,550 homes (2.04 percent of the U.S. population). Most Baltimore area television stations can be seen in the Washington region.

Several cable television networks have their headquarters in the Washington area, including C-SPAN, Black Entertainment Television (BET), National Geographic Channel, and Discovery Communications, as well as the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in Virginia. Major national broadcasters and cable outlets including NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and CNN maintain a significant presence in Washington, as do those from around the world including the BBC, CBC, and Al Jazeera.


National Public Radio headquarters, located at Mount Vernon Square

There are several major radio stations serving the metro area, with a wide variety of musical interests as well as talk and sports. There are two National Public Radio (NPR) affiliates. Most major radio stations from Baltimore can be heard in the Washington metropolitan area. XM Satellite Radio and NPR are based in Washington. Voice of America, the U.S. government's international broadcasting service, is headquartered in Washington.

Health care

The District's 16 medical centers and hospitals make it a national center for patient care and medical research. Washington Hospital Center (WHC), the largest hospital campus in the District, is both the largest private and largest non-profit hospital in the Washington area. Immediately adjacent to it is the Children's National Medical Center, among the highest-ranked pediatric hospitals in the country. Many of the city's prominent universities, including George Washington, Georgetown, and Howard, have medical schools and associated teaching hospitals. Walter Reed Army Medical Center provides care for active-duty and retired personnel and their dependents, as well as the president, vice president, and congressmen. The hospital is scheduled to move to a newer and larger facility, forcing its closure in 2011. Veterans also receive care at the Veterans' Affairs Medical Center.

However, the District's hospital services are poorly distributed geographically: all of the District’s trauma facilities are clustered in the Northwest quadrant, while 42 percent of the District’s population live in the eastern sectors, where there are no trauma facilities of any kind.

Looking ahead

Night view of The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, 2007.

Washington has some of the highest-cost, lowest-quality services in the entire region, including a high-cost public school system with shabby schools and low learning standards. Prosperity in the late 1990s and early 2000s including an influx of young professional residents lessened public pressure on the city, but it still faces urban renewal, public health, and public education challenges.

A 2007 study found that one-third of adults in the city are functionally illiterate (compared to one-fifth nationally), although Washington still ranks as one of the most educated cities in the nation, with 45 percent of adults holding a bachelor's degree or higher. The State of Adult Literacy Report also indicated that funds for literacy programs were often not reaching those who most need help, a situation that needs to be remedied. The high rates of functional illiteracy are especially troubling in D.C. because 47 percent of the jobs there require college or advanced degrees (as compared with only 26 percent of the jobs nationally). The D.C. Chamber of Commerce said up to $107 million is being lost in tax revenue each year because of a lack of qualified job applicants. White households typically have incomes nearly twice that of black or Hispanic families in D.C., and the vast majority of the college degree holders are white.

Mayor Fenty has appointed schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, a reformer who has worked to upgrade the system by closing some schools, replacing teachers, firing principals, and using private education firms to aid curriculum development. Her five-year plan, unveiled in December 2008, focuses on six strategies for reform:

  • Create schools that provide a consistent foundation in academics and a variety of challenging themes and programs
  • Retain the most effective educators and afford them commensurate compensation
  • Implement a rigorous, relevant, college preparatory curriculum that gives all students meaningful options for life
  • Support decision-making with accurate information about how our students are performing and how the District as a whole is performing
  • Provide schools with the support they need to operate effectively
  • Partner with families and community members who demand better schools

The HIV rate in Washington is 1 in 20, the same as the overall rate in sub-Saharan Africa. The city has the highest AIDS infection rate of any city in the United States. According to one report, more than 12,400 people in the city live with either HIV or AIDS, averaging 1 person out of every 50. The report found an increase in the number of infants, older adults, women, and heterosexual men who have contracted the virus or the deficiency. Although African Americans make up 56 percent of the city's population, those residents account for 81 percent of the city's new infection cases and 86 percent of those currently living with the disease.

The city's response has been voluntary screening of all incoming prison inmates, increasing the availability of free screenings, and initiating a free condom distribution program. Meanwhile, a privately run program that worked in several public schools to advocate abstinence was discontinued.


  1. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011 (CSV). 2011 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau (December 2011). Retrieved December 21, 2011.
  2. Population and Housing Occupancy Status: 2010 – United States – Metropolitan Statistical Area; and for Puerto Rico. United States Census Bureau (2010). Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  3. Ulysses Simpson Grant III, "Planning the Nation's Capital," Records of the Columbia Historical Society 50 (1950): 43–58.
  4. Trust for Public Land, Total Parkland as Percent of City Land Area. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  5. National Park Service, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park: History & Culture. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  6. National Cherry Blossom Festival, History of the Trees and Festival. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
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External links

All links retrieved October 19, 2016.

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