News from Insight Region™

Elizabeth Hughes, Senior Director

June 14, 2021

Exploring the broader context of Northern Virginia's exceptional rates of economic mobility

by Elizabeth Hughes, Senior Director of Insight RegionTM

In May 2021, Insight Region released its second brief in the Inclusive Prosperity series, Spreading the Wealth, which found that 19 percent of lower-income children who grew up in the region in the 1980’s and 1990’s were earning in the top quintile for household income as adults, the highest rate of economic mobility across the 50 most populous metro areas in the US. The region also produced the highest rates for Black children (10 percent) and Hispanic children (15 percent) in lower-income families. Compared to the broader DC metro area of which Northern Virginia is a part, these rates were also substantially higher—overall, 11 percent of children raised in poorer families in the DC metro area attained wealth as adults, dropping down to the 15th highest rate among metros; 6 percent of Black children (4th highest) and 13 percent of Hispanic children (2nd highest) raised in poorer families made it to the top quintile.

Our May 2021 brief went on to estimate the current level of opportunity across Northern Virginia’s 500+ census tracts, based on seven factors that research has shown influence mobility. But we had to wonder—how did Northern Virginia’s opportunity factors compare to those in the broader DMV?

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May 11, 2021

by Elizabeth Hughes, Senior Director of Insight RegionTM

Our region is a great place to raise a child, and now, Insight Region has produced one more data point to prove it.

Our next brief in the Inclusive Prosperity series—Spreading the Wealth —explores economic mobility, the likelihood that a child raised in a lower-income family will make it to the top quintile for income as an adult. The brief relies on data from Opportunity Insights, a think tank of out Harvard that has quantified rates of economic mobility for every census tract in the country. And their data show that of the region’s kids who grew up at or near poverty in the 1990s, approximately one in five achieved economic mobility, the highest rate of any metro area in the country.* Northern Virginia also had the highest rates of mobility among Black and Hispanic children; ten percent of Black children raised here in a lower-income family achieved economic mobility, four times higher than the national average.

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May 11, 2021

Thirty years ago, children growing up in a lower-income family in Northern Virginia enjoyed the highest rate of economic mobility in the country; 19 percent were earning in the top quintile for household income as adults, the highest rate of economic mobility across the 50 most populous metro areas. This near universal “prosperity bump” extended across racial-ethnic groups. If history is any indication, that story will remain unchanged.

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January 25, 2021

by Elizabeth Hughes, Senior Director of Insight RegionTM

Insight Region recently released its first research brief, Unequal Burden, which highlighted the state of housing affordability in Northern Virginia. The brief and the release event that we held on January 13th (watch here) have generated a lot of questions about how we move forward as a region.

In this post, I am joined by my colleague Michelle Krocker (MK) from the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance to begin to answer some of those questions. Please check back as we continue to update this page with more responses.

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January 13, 2021

by Elizabeth Hughes, Senior Director of Insight RegionTM

Northern Virginia is one of the country’s most expensive places to live, but also one of its most affordable.

Now, I know how that sounds. But look at the data—in 2019, Loudoun County had the fourth highest median housing cost among all counties and independent cities in the country, followed by Fairfax (#8), Arlington (#10), Prince William (#24), and Alexandria (#26). The same year, 72% of households had housing costs that were considered “affordable” by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and just 11% were considered severely burdened by housing costs, a rate well below the national average (14%) and other tech hubs.

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January 13, 2021


A new report by the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia finds that 67% of Northern Virginians with low incomes (less than $50,000 per year for a family of four) are “severely burdened” by the cost of housing, spending over half of their income on rent, mortgage, taxes, fees, and basic utilities. Individuals and families with moderate incomes ($50,000 to $100,000 for a family of four) fare slightly better, but still over half (59 percent) cannot afford their homes and 19% spend over half of their income on housing.

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October 8, 2020

In 2020, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia launched Insight RegionTM, a center for community research. It is a growing hub for reliable, well-researched, and actionable data and analyses on issues critical to Northern Virginia. Through this work, we seek to inform charitable giving, inspire civic and social action, and foster a more inclusive, prosperous region.

In 2021, Insight Region will focus on understanding and promoting Inclusive Prosperity – increasing self-sufficiency, expanding economic opportunity, and forging pathways for long-term movements out of poverty for all of Northern Virginia’s residents.

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September 10, 2020
EH headshot1 300x350Today, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia welcomes Elizabeth Hughes as the new Senior Director of Insight Region, a research center at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia launched earlier this year that analyzes local trends, convenes civic leaders, and promotes civic and social action.

Elizabeth has spent her career at the intersection of research and policy, helping decision-makers sort through the noise and find relevant, actionable insights to help guide operations, maximize productivity, and achieve strategic goals.
“Through the collection and curation of relevant, reliable, and actionable data, Insight Region will allow the community to explore the unique strengths and needs that define this region and to understand how investments in programs and services can make Northern Virginia more resilient, healthy, and equitable,” said Hughes.

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