Southern Md. has top growth rate But Washington suburbs add greatest number of new residents

March 27, 1998|By Taylor Lincoln | Taylor Lincoln,CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

ANNAPOLIS - Southern Maryland's population grew by 18.2 percent from 1990 to 1997, the fastest growth rate in the state, according to new figures from the Census Bureau.

But in raw numbers, Southern Maryland's growth was dwarfed by the Washington suburbs. Prince George's and Montgomery counties grew by a total of 112,000 people, more than a third of the entire state's growth for the time period.

Baltimore's close suburbs of Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties matched the Washington suburbs, growing by nearly 113,000 people, or 8.6 percent. But growth in the Baltimore region as a whole was held to 3.5 percent because the city lost almost 79,000 residents - more than the population of 10 counties in the state.

Eastern Shore counties grew by 9.8 percent, or 33,540 residents. Western Maryland counties, including Frederick, grew by 10.3 percent, or 38,485 residents.

The recently released census figures showed the overall state population grew by 6.6 percent to 5.1 million people. That growth rate was slightly below the national increase of 7.6 percent since the start of the decade.

Among individual counties, Calvert's 35 percent growth was tops.

"We're in the next ring out [from the Washington suburbs]," Calvert County Administrator Richard Holler said. "A lot of people want a little bit more of a country atmosphere."

Calvert County led a Southern Maryland boom that echoed in Charles County, which grew by 13.8 percent, and St. Mary's County, which grew by 12.8 percent.

But if an exodus from Washington suburbs fueled Southern Maryland's boom, as Holler suggested, Montgomery County experienced an influx that more than compensated. The county led the state with 64,559 new residents, an 8.5 percent increase.

"We really think the population growth is due to [foreign] immigration more than anything else," said Sally Roman, a research coordinator in the Montgomery County Park and Planning Department.

Roman noted that a 1994 survey showed that 47 percent of the state's foreign-born population lived in Montgomery County, which accounted for 16 percent of the state's total population in the latest figures.

Roman also said that new construction was not keeping pace with Montgomery's population growth. "It's bigger households rather than more houses," she said.

A cap on construction was credited with putting the brakes on the explosive growth that Howard County experienced in the 1970s and 1980s, although the county continues to be among the state's fastest-growing.

Howard's 22 percent increase since 1990 was almost lethargic compared with the 59 percent increase it posted in the 1980s and its 91 percent expansion in the 1970s.

Pub Date: 3/27/98

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