The city that recedes Census revisions: Statistics tell the continuing story of urban flight, suburban growth.

March 24, 1997

FOR BALTIMORE, the latest projections from the U.S. Census Bureau are like a birthday without the cake and presents: You know the outcome beforehand and it isn't apt to make you feel better.

Indeed, the update shows that Maryland's largest city lost 60,000 residents from July 1990 to last July, dropping Baltimore's population to 675,401. That "lost city" of ex-patriate Baltimoreans could form the state's second-largest city all by themselves.

The numbers tell of people voting with their feet: The only other two jurisdictions in Maryland that lost population from 1990-1996, Allegany County in Western Maryland and Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore, had more deaths than births -- symptoms of an aging populace. Baltimore, on the other hand, had 18,000 more births than deaths, equal to Baltimore County, plus some international immigration. But it lost 85,000 who moved out, offsetting the gains.

Baltimore's current losses are striking even in the context of the post-World War II era. The city lost one-third more people in the past six years alone than from 1950 to 1970. And while outmigration increased in the '70s to about 14,000 lost a year, compared to 10,000 a year now, today's losses erode a smaller base.

"This was as bad a year for Baltimore as any in the '90s," said Michel A. Lettre, assistant director of the Maryland Office of Planning.

Meanwhile, Baltimore's suburbs continue to experience double-digit gains in population -- more reason for "smart growth" limits. Anne Arundel County grew by 9 percent since 1990; Baltimore County by 4 percent; Carroll, 16 percent; Harford, 15 percent, and Howard, 20 percent. On the whole, Maryland gained 290,000 residents, up 6 percent, to 5.07 million. But it had a net loss of 25,000 people, who may have left for better job prospects as the state suffered from downsizing in government and the defense industry. International migration and births more than offset that loss.

These estimates flow from various demographic, tax and immigration data and computer modeling since the last national census in 1990. The accuracy of the count in the cities perennially raises question. But anyone hoping the latest report might defy conventional wisdom on urban flight won't find solace in it.

Pub Date: 3/24/97

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