Minority numbers increase in region Population of whites decreasing as racial, ethnic groups grow

September 04, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Larry Carson, Edward Lee, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan and Daniel Valentine contributed to this article.

The Baltimore region grew more racially and ethnically diverse in the last eight years, thanks to increases in the number of minorities and a slight decline in the white, non-Hispanic population, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The region's black, Asian and American Indian populations increased by nearly 90,000 between 1990 and 1997, while the white population declined by 1,899 people, according to the estimates, which were based on an experimental model.

The most dramatic change came in Baltimore City, which has seen a 25 percent drop in the number of white, non-Hispanic residents since 1990, an estimated 72,896 people. That accounts for most of the city's population decline of 78,758 so far this decade.

Communities throughout the Baltimore region are feeling the effects of the population changes:

Along South Broadway in Fells Point, owners of Spanish-speaking stores such as A & K Botanica and Video and the Tienda Rosita say an increase in Hispanic residents buoys business in an area some store owners call "Spanish Town."

In Woodlawn, parents are fighting school overcrowding prompted by young, black families moving into the neighborhood as older, white residents leave.

In Anne Arundel, the county government has begun work on a guidebook in English, Spanish and Korean about services offered in the county.

In Howard County, an increase in the Hispanic population has prompted a specialized after-school program and efforts to help Spanish-speaking parents wend their way through the school bureaucracy.

"This is the wave of the future. We're seeing trends like this all over," said Deacon Ritterbush, an Annapolis resident who holds a doctorate in international development and has worked with immigrants in Hawaii, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa.

And Michel Lettre, assistant planning director for the state, said the Census Bureau's latest statewide figures confirm what officials already know: that ethnic diversity is Maryland is increasing, thanks to foreign immigration and migration from Washington.

Statewide, Maryland gained 256,213 racial minorities between 1990 and 1997. Numbers for Hispanics were folded into the specific racial categories.

Experts at the Maryland Office of Planning caution that the mathematical model used to derive the numbers is not yet

verified by a decennial census. Lettre said the population changes in the smaller counties were especially suspect.

"We won't know until 2001 if they are on the right track," said Mark Goldstein, an economist with the state planning office.

But Anthony T. Rollie, president of the Chadwick Elementary Parent Teacher Association in Woodlawn, has seen signs of change in his neighborhood.

"There has been a very big shift between the white population and the black population," said Rollie, who is black and has lived in the neighborhood since 1989. "What's typically happening is a lot of older white couples that have been around a long time seem to be moving out. What seems to be moving in are younger black families."

In Anne Arundel, the county government's planned tri-lingual guidebook is intended to help serve the changing population.

"We believe we have got more than sufficient services for the growing and divergent needs of the change in cultural population," said county spokeswoman Lisa I. Ritter. "But we know that we need to get the message out -- where they can find these services and how to secure them."

Anne Arundel's minority population climbed from about 14 percent to 18 percent from 1990 to 1997, driven in part by people seeking a location close to immigrant communities in Baltimore and Washington, said Deacon Ritterbush, the county resident helping to publish the guidebook.

"Immigrants move where their families are and where people from their countries are," she said.

In Howard County, officials have reached out to the Hispanic community.

A program called Spanish Speakers Association for Better Education helps Spanish-speaking parents wade through the bureaucratic web in local schools. Parents of students at Running Brook, Swansfield and Talbot Springs elementary schools can meet with a part-time, Spanish-speaking liaison.

And a one-on-one tutoring session for parents gave birth to an after-school program for 40 elementary and middle school students last spring, said Kinza Schuyler, executive director of the Foreign Born Information and Referral Network in Howard County.

"By the time these kids hit second grade, the parents don't know what they're doing and their English isn't at the same speed," Schuyler said. "We started seeing more and more of those types of requests."

In the city, the minority population increased from 60 percent to 67 percent. The impact of Hispanics has been especially noticeable in areas such as Fells Point.

Back in 1990, South Broadway "was empty," said Heber Portillo, owner of the Restaurant El Salvador. "Now you can come here on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday, and it's a lot better."

Portillo's business has grown so much over the last five years that he is adding a second story to his restaurant. "The community is growing, the entire area is growing," Portillo said. "I feel great about it. It's not just good for us, it's good for everybody."

While the area's racial and ethnic makeup is changing, there appeared to be little change in the area of age, according to the data.

Harford and Carroll had the youngest populations, with about 30 percent of residents under age 18. Baltimore County had the lTC oldest population, with about 14 percent of its residents 65 and older.

Baltimore County officials said the demographic numbers were in line with their own estimates. With the next census two years away, they will be used by county agencies to help plan their programs, according to Ervin McDaniel, chief of the county's capital budget and information systems.

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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