The Washington metropolitan area is the metropolitan area centered on Washington, D.C. , the capital of the United States. The area includes all of the federal district and parts of the U.S. states of Maryland and Virginia , along with a small portion of West Virginia . While not a part of the Washington metropolitan area, St. Mary's County is part of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area .

The Washington metropolitan area is one of the most educated and most affluent metropolitan areas in the United States. The metro area anchors the southern end of the densely populated Northeast megalopolis , with an estimated total population of 6,131,977 as of the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau estimate, making it the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the country [9] and largest metropolitan area in the Census Bureau's Southeast region.


The U.S. Office of Management and Budget defines the area as the Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD–WV metropolitan statistical area , a metropolitan statistical area used for statistical purposes by the United States Census Bureau and other agencies. The region's three largest cities are the federal territory of Washington, D.C., the county (and Census-designated place ) of Arlington , and the independent city of Alexandria . The Office of Management and Budget also includes the metropolitan statistical area as part of the larger Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area , which has a population of 9,546,579 as of the 2014 Census Estimate. [6]

The area is also sometimes referred to as the National Capital Region , particularly by federal agencies such as the military [2] Department of Homeland Security . [60] Another term used to describe the region is the D.C. Area . The area in the region that is surrounded by Interstate 495 is also referred to as being " inside the Beltway ". The city of Washington, which is at the center of the area, is referred to as "the District" because it is the federal District of Columbia, and is not part of any state. The Virginian portion of the region is known as Northern Virginia .


Map highlighting labor patterns of regional counties

The U.S. Census Bureau divides the Washington statistical metropolitan area into two metropolitan divisions: [2]

  • Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD–WV Metropolitan Division, comprising the majority of the metropolitan area
  • Silver Spring–Frederick–Rockville, MD Metropolitan Division, consisting of Montgomery and Frederick counties

Political subdivisions

The area includes the following counties, districts, and independent cities: [2]

District of Columbia



West Virginia

Regional organizations

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

Founded in 1957, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) is a regional organization of 21 Washington-area local governments, as well as area members of the Maryland and Virginia state legislatures, the U.S. Senate , and the U.S. House of Representatives . MWCOG provides a forum for discussion and the development of regional responses to issues regarding the environment, transportation, public safety, homeland security, affordable housing, community planning, and economic development. [25]

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board , a component of MWCOG, is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization for the metropolitan Washington area. [26]

Principal cities

The metropolitan area includes the following principal cities (not all of which are incorporated as cities; one, Arlington, is actually a county, and another, Bethesda, is not a city, simply a census-designated unincorporated area. [2]


Presidential election results
Year DEM GOP Others
2016 69.0% 1,860,678 25.7% 692,743 5.4% 145,269
2012 67.5% 1,813,963 30.9% 829,567 1.7% 44,708
2008 68.0% 1,603,902 31.0% 728,916 1.0% 25,288
2004 61.0% 1,258,743 38.0% 785,144 1.4% 19,735
2000 58.5% 1,023,089 37.9% 663,590 3.6% 62,437
1996 57.0% 861,881 37.0% 558,830 6.0% 89,259
1992 53.0% 859,889 34.1% 553.369 12.9% 209,651
1988 50.4% 684,453 48.6% 659,344 1.0% 14,219
1984 51.0% 653,568 48.5% 621,377 0.4% 5,656
1980 44.7% 484,590 44.6% 482,506 11.1% 115,797
1976 54.2% 590,481 44.9% 488,995 1.0% 10,654
1972 44.2% 431,257 54.8% 534,235 1.1% 10,825
1968 49.4% 414,345 39.1% 327,662 11.5% 96,701
1964 69.8% 495,490 30.2% 214,293 0.1% 462
1960 52.5% 204,614 47.3% 184,499 0.1% 593
Washington, D.C. metropolitan area map


The relative strength of the major political parties within the region is shown by the presidential election results since 1960, as presented in the adjacent table.

Racial composition

The area has been a magnet for international immigration since the late 1960s. It is also a magnet for internal migration (persons moving from one region of the U.S. to another). [2]

Racial composition of the Washington, D.C. area:

2011 American Community Survey
  • Non-Hispanic White : 48.2%
  • Black or African American : 25.3%
  • Hispanic or Latino : 14.1%
  • Asian : 9.3%
  • Mixed and Other : 3.1%
2010 U.S. Census
  • White : 54.8%
  • Black : 25.8%
  • Asian : 9.3%
  • Hispanic : 13.8% (4.1% Salvadoran, 2.1% Mexican, 1.1% Colombian, 0.9% Guatemalan, 0.9% Puerto Rican, 0.8% Peruvian, 0.7% Honduran, 0.7% Bolivian)
  • Mixed and Other : 3.7%
2006 [3]
  • White : 67.8%
  • Black : 26.0%
  • Asian : 2.5%
  • Hispanic : 2.8%
  • Mixed and Other : 0.9%

Social indicators

The Washington metropolitan area has ranked as the highest-educated metropolitan area in the nation for four decades. As of the 2006–2008 American Community Survey , the three most educated places with 200,000 people or more in Washington–Arlington–Alexandria by bachelor's degree attainment (population 25 and over) are Arlington, Virginia (68.0%), Fairfax County, Virginia (58.8%), and Montgomery County, Maryland (56.4%). [6] Forbes magazine stated in its 2008 "America's Best- And Worst-Educated Cities" report: "The D.C. area is less than half the size of L.A., but both cities have around 100,000 Ph.D.'s."

The Washington, D.C. metro area has held the top spot in the American College of Sports Medicine 's annual American Fitness Index ranking of the United States' 50 most populous metropolitan areas for two years running. The report cites, among other things, the high average fitness level and healthy eating habits of residents, the widespread availability of health care and facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, and parks, low rates of obesity and tobacco use relative to the national average, and the high median household income as contributors to the city's community health. [8]

View of downtown Washington , with the skylines of Arlington and Tysons Corner in the distance.

In the 21st century, the Washington metropolitan area has overtaken the San Francisco Bay Area as the highest-income metropolitan area in the nation. The median household income of the region is US$72,800. The two highest median household income counties in the nation – Loudoun and Fairfax County, Virginia – are components of the MSA (and #3 is Howard County , officially in Baltimore 's sphere but strongly connected with Washington's); measured in this way, Alexandria ranks 10th among municipalities in the region – 11th if Howard is included – and 23rd in the entire United States. 12.2% of Northern Virginia's 881,136 households, 8.5% of suburban Maryland's 799,300 households, and 8.2% of Washington's 249,805 households have an annual income in excess of $200,000, compared to 3.7% nationally. [14]

According to a report by the American Human Development Project , women in the Washington metropolitan area are ranked as having the highest income and educational attainment among the 25 most populous metropolitan areas in the nation, while Asian American women in the region had the highest life expectancy, at 92.3 years. [14]


The Washington, D.C. area has the largest science and engineering work force of any metropolitan area in the nation in 2006 according to the Greater Washington Initiative at 324,530, ahead of the combined San Francisco Bay Area work force of 214,500, and Chicago metropolitan area at 203,090, citing data from U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Claritas Inc., and other sources.

The Washington, D.C. area was ranked as the second best High-Tech Center in a statistical analysis of the top 100 Metropolitan areas in the United States by American City Business Journals in May 2009, behind the Silicon Valley and ahead of the Boston metropolitan area . [32] Fueling the metropolitan area's ranking was the reported 241,264 tech jobs in the region, a total eclipsed only by New York , Los Angeles , and the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the highest master's or doctoral degree attainment among the 100 ranked metropolitan areas. [32] A report showed that the Washington–Baltimore area had the second-highest number of tech jobs listed: 8,289, after the New York metro area with 9,195 jobs. [14]

Real estate and housing market

Changes in house prices for the D.C. area are publicly tracked on a regular basis using the Case–Shiller index ; the statistic is published by Standard & Poor's and is also a component of S&P's 10-city composite index of the value of the U.S. residential real estate market.

McLean ZIP code 22102 had the highest median home prices among ZIP codes within the Washington metropolitan area as of 2013. [14]

Net worth, wealth disparities, and business ownership

The economy of the Washington metropolitan region is characterized by significant wealth disparities , which were heightened by the Great Recession and the 2007–09 housing crisis , which adversely affected black and Hispanic households more than other households. [64] [65]

A 2016 Urban Institute report found that the median net worth (i.e., assets minus debt) for white households in the D.C. region was $284,000, while the median net worth for Hispanic/Latino households was $13,000, and for African American households as $3,500. [64] [65] Asian Americans had the highest median net worth in the Washington area ($220,000 for Chinese American households, $430,000 for Vietnamese American households, $496,000 for Korean American households, and $573,000 for Indian American households). [64] [65]

Although the median net worth for white D.C.-area households was 81 times that of black D.C.-area households, the two groups had comparable rates of business ownership (about 9%). The Urban Institute report suggests that this "may be driven by the presence of a large federal government and a local district government whose membership and constituents have been largely Black, coupled with government policies designed to increase contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses." [64] [65]

Primary industries

The southern portion of the Capital Beltway along the Potomac River , featuring portions of Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
Old Town Alexandria , Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling , and National Harbor, Maryland are visible.


The Washington metropolitan area has a significant biotechnology industry; companies with a major presence in the region as of 2011 include Merck , Pfizer , Human Genome Sciences , Martek Biosciences , MedImmune and Qiagen . [14]

Defense contracting

Many defense contractors are based in the region to be close to the Pentagon in Arlington. Local defense contractors include Lockheed Martin , the largest, as well as Raytheon , General Dynamics , BAE Systems , Northrup Grumman , Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) , Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) , CACI , and Orbital Sciences Corporation .


Tourism is a significant industry in the Washington metropolitan region. In 2015, more than 74,000 tourism-sector jobs existed in the District of Columbia, a record-setting 19.3 million domestic tourists visited the city, and domestic and international tourists combined spent $7.1 billion. [67] [68] The convention industry is also significant; in 2016, D.C. hosted fifteen "city-wide conventions" with an estimated total economic impact of $277.9 million. [67]

Tourism is also significant outside the District of Columbia; in 2015, a record-setting $3.06 billion in tourism spending was reported in Arlington, Virginia , and $2.9 million in Fairfax County, Virginia . [69] A 2016 National Park Service report estimated that there were 56 million visitors to national parks in the National Capital Region, sustaining 16,917 and generating close to $1.6 billion in economy impact. [70]

Largest companies

The average household income within a 5-mile (8 km) radius of Tysons Corner Center is $174,809. [27]
Largest public companies ( Fortune 500 2016) [4]
Company Industry Headquarters National rank
AES Corporation Energy Arlington, Virginia 190
Booz Allen Hamilton Defense McLean, Virginia 487
Capital One Finance McLean, Virginia 112
Computer Sciences Corporation Defense Falls Church, Virginia 233
Danaher Corporation Conglomerate Washington, D.C. 133
Discovery Communications Mass Media Silver Spring, Maryland 406
Fannie Mae Finance Washington, D.C. 16
Freddie Mac Finance McLean, Virginia 43
General Dynamics Defense Falls Church, Virginia 88
Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. Hospitality McLean, Virginia 254
Host Hotels and Resorts Hospitality Bethesda, Maryland 472
Lockheed Martin Defense Bethesda, Maryland 60
Marriott International Hospitality Bethesda, Maryland 195
Northrop Grumman Defense Falls Church, Virginia 118
NVR, Inc. Construction Reston, Virginia 498
Largest private companies ( Forbes America's Largest Private Companies 2016) [71]
Company Industry Headquarters National rank
BrightView Landscaping Rockville, Maryland 220
Carahsoft Defense Reston, Virginia 161
Clark Construction Construction Bethesda, Maryland 102
Mars, Incorporated Food processing McLean, Virginia 7


Rosslyn is home to the tallest high-rises in the region, partly due to the District's height restrictions . As a result, many of the region's tallest buildings are outside the city proper. [14] [14]

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure resulted in a significant shuffling of military, civilian, and defense contractor employees in the Washington D.C. area. The largest individual site impacts of the time are as follows: [38]

BRAC 2005 was the largest infrastructure expansion by the Army Corps of Engineers since World War II , resulting in the Mark Center , tallest building they have ever constructed, as well as National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Campus East, which at 2.4 million square feet is the largest building the Corps have constructed since the Pentagon . [4]


NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda .
1812 N Moore in Arlington, currently the tallest office building in the region and home to the U.S. operations of Nestlé .

'WMATA'-indicated systems are run by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and always accept Washington Metro fare cards, others may or may not.

Major airports

Rail transit systems

Bus transit systems

Major roads

Bicycle sharing


Sports teams

Listing of the professional sports teams in the Washington metropolitan area:


The Washington metropolitan area is home to USA Today , C-SPAN , PBS , NPR , POLITICO , BET , TV One and Discovery Communications . The two main newspapers are The Washington Post and The Washington Times . Local television channels include WRC-TV 4 (NBC), WTTG 5 (FOX), WJLA 7 (ABC), WUSA 9 (CBS), WDCA 20 (MyNetworkTV), WETA-TV 26 (PBS), WDCW 50 (CW), and WPXW 66 ( Ion ). NewsChannel 8 is a 24/7 local news provider available only to cable subscribers. Radio stations serving the area include: WETA-FM , WIHT , WMAL-AM , and WTOP .

Area codes

  • 202 – Washington, D.C.
  • 571/703 – Northern Virginia including the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church as well as Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties (571 created 1 March 2000; 703 in October 1947).
  • 240/301 – portions of Maryland in the Greater Washington, D.C. metro area, southern Maryland , and western Maryland
  • 540 – Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania/Warrenton
  • 304 – Jefferson County, West Virginia

Sister cities

City Country Year
Washington, D.C.
NGA headquarters in Fort Belvoir .
1962, renewed 2002
Dakar Senegal 1980, renewed 2006
1984, renewed 2004
1985, renewed 2012
Athens Greece 2000
Paris [2] France 2000, renewed 2005
Pretoria South Africa 2002, renewed 2008
Seoul South Korea 2006
Accra Ghana 2006
Sunderland United Kingdom 2006
Alexandria, Virginia
Gyumri Armenia
Helsingborg Sweden
Dundee [46] United Kingdom
Caen France
Arlington County, Virginia
Aachen Germany
Reims France
San Miguel El Salvador
Coyoacán Mexico
Ivano-Frankivsk Ukraine
Herndon, Virginia
Runnymede [28] United Kingdom
Fairfax County, Virginia
Harbin [82] China 2009
Songpa-gu [81] South Korea 2009
Falls Church, Virginia
Kokolopori Congo
District Heights, Maryland
Mbuji-Mayi Congo
Frederick, Maryland
Aquiraz Brazil
Moerzheim Germany
Schifferstadt Germany
La Plata, Maryland
Jogeva County Estonia
Walldorf Germany
Rockville, Maryland
Pinneberg Germany
  1. Paris is a "Partner City" due to the one Sister City policy of that commune .
  2. . . Retrieved November 19, 2012 .
  3. Exploration phase
  4. Town twin
  5. Rejected by Washington due to not being a national capital.
  6. . . Retrieved November 19, 2012 .

See also