Outflow of whites from city rivals '70s Census estimates find departure pace 'brisk' from 1990 to 1994

September 07, 1996|By James Bock | James Bock,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's white population dropped by almost 40,000 from 1990 to 1994 while the number of black city residents nudged upward only slightly, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The outflow of whites exceeded the relatively modest pace of the 1980s, the figures show, and approached the exodus of the 1970s, when nearly 12,000 whites a year left Baltimore.

The bulk of the city's population loss was due to whites -- $H roughly 37,000 of them -- moving elsewhere. Deaths among the city's aging whites accounted for a small fraction of the decline.

Blacks left Baltimore, too, and put down roots in the suburbs along with growing Latino and Asian minorities. Black births outpaced deaths by 19,500 in the city during 1990-1994, but Baltimore's black population grew only by 5,500. The reason: 14,000 blacks moved out.

"The out-migration seems to be at a very brisk pace once again," said Josef Nathanson, research director for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. "There was a period in the '80s when out-migration was slowed. Interest rates were high, and people weren't making home-buying decisions."

Baltimore County's population grew slowly as the number of whites remained virtually unchanged. But the black population increased by nearly 15,000 in the four-year period, the census figures showed. About two-thirds of the increase was due to new arrivals from the city.

"Were it not for the large numbers of blacks and browns moving into the county over the past 10 to 15 years, Baltimore County would have suffered negative population growth," said Lenwood Johnson, a county planner, referring to the increase in African-Americans and Latinos.

In Maryland as a whole, a sluggish economy took its toll and slowed population growth.

The state's white population nudged upward by only 1.7 percent. The black population grew by 10.4 percent, spurred partly by African-Americans abandoning the District of Columbia for the Maryland suburbs. The Latino and Asian populations grew statewide by 30 percent and 26 percent, respectively, driven by continuing high rates of immigration.

Nathanson said the estimates showed that Hispanics and Asians are becoming a significant presence in the Baltimore area. Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties all showed increases of 30 percent or more in those minority populations in 1990-1994.

The estimates represent the first time the bureau has issued breakdowns by race and Hispanic origin between the national head counts taken every 10 years.

The bureau called the estimates experimental and posted them on the Internet with the disclaimer: "These figures should be used with caution."

Larry Sink, a bureau statistician, said the estimates were not based on a new head count. He said the bureau used computerized analysis to tie Social Security Administration data, which record race, to other government statistics used in tracking migration: tax returns, birth and death certificates, and immigration records.

"We were willing to go public because of the improvement in our techniques," he said.

But Michel A. Lettre, assistant director of the Maryland Office of Planning, called the figures "not terribly reliable."

He said "no underlying real measurement" was behind the numbers and cautioned figures for small counties were most subject to distortion.

Charles C. Graves III, the city's planning director, said he had not seen the figures and couldn't comment. He said his "gut feeling" was that Baltimore's population decline was leveling off.

Demographers said, however, that the census estimates reinforced well-established trends in the Baltimore area: population loss in the city, slow growth in older suburbs, robust expansion in the outer suburbs.

The new estimates show the early 1990s to be a period more like the 1970s, when the net exodus from Baltimore was 119,000 whites and 26,200 nonwhites.

By 1994, Baltimore was 63 percent black, 36 percent white and 1 percent Latino, Asian and American Indian, according to the estimates. Yet, Baltimore accounted for only one-third of Maryland's blacks, down from 45 percent in 1980, as the African-American population grew in the suburbs.

If population trends continue, Prince George's County in the Washington suburbs will surpass Baltimore as the state's largest black population center by 2000. The census figures showed Washington's black population declining by nearly 10 percent in 1990-1994, and Prince George's black population increasing by 11 percent.

Montgomery County, the state's largest jurisdiction, remained the growth center for the "new" minorities, with more than 73,000 Latinos and 79,000 Asians.

"Immigrants are spilling over into the inner suburbs as middle-class whites move out to the periphery," said William Frey, a demographer at the University of Michigan Population Studies Center.

Pub Date: 9/07/96

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