Figures find exodus of blacks to suburbs

Balto. County's 77% increase is highest in state

`Major transformation'

Census 2000 The Maryland Count

March 21, 2001|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

When the last census was taken in 1990, Angela D. Lay lived in the Cherry Hill section of Baltimore City.

"Oh, I could tell you some stories about Cherry Hill," she said. "Standing on the porch you could hear gunfire, and you'd have to disturb the kids' playing and bring them in for safety."

When the 2000 census forms reached her last year, Lay, a nurse, was living in Randallstown in Baltimore County. She, her husband and four children share a brand-new home in the Lyonswood South subdivision. They have a neatly landscaped yard, a car in the driveway and an SUV in the street. Lay said she likes the schools, the neighbors and the quiet.

They are just one black family among thousands who, over the past decade, have accelerated the 30-year-old migration of blacks seeking to better their lives by moving to the county.

Together they have boosted Baltimore County's black population by more than 66,000 people, up 77 percent from the 1990 census. That growth rate was the highest for blacks in any county in Maryland, according to the 2000 census data released Monday.

The county's black population has nearly tripled since 1980. The gains are most visible in census tracts in the Woodlawn and Randallstown areas, between U.S. 40 on the south and Reisterstown Road on the north.

Lay's neighborhood was 70 percent white in 1990 and is now 70 percent black. Allen R. Sheppard, who is black, first moved there 25 years ago when the place was mostly cornfields.

"I've seen a major transformation, and I really don't like it," he said. One of the changes was an exodus of white families from his neighborhood.

"This guy over here moved to Columbia," Sheppard said, pointing across the street. "This guy over there, he lost his wife, and he moved to Westminster. This house over here, a white couple built a swimming pool and sold it."

Kevin Kamenetz, the county councilman who represents part of the area, said Randallstown was developed 30 or 40 years ago, and the mostly white families who first settled there have raised their kids and started moving out. Now they're being replaced by younger families - black families - with children.

"I think there was a core African-American population that existed on Liberty Road, so this is a natural expansion of that growth," he said.

Nationwide, the 2000 census has heralded the 60 percent increase among Hispanics during the 1990s. Their numbers drew abreast of blacks for the first time, with more than 35 million people.

But in Maryland, the story remains essentially a matter of black and white.

The number of Hispanics grew more than 82 percent. But Maryland's 228,000 Hispanics are still barely 4.3 percent of the population. The census considers Hispanic an ethnic rather than racial classification.

The same is true of Asians. While their numbers grew more than 52 percent, to 213,000, they're still just 4 percent of the state's total. Montgomery County has more Asians and Hispanics than any other county, at 11 percent each. Few other counties have more than 2 percent or 3 percent of either group.

Whites served only as a brake to the state's population growth. On April 1 last year, there were almost 40,000 fewer non-Hispanic whites in Maryland than on the same date a decade earlier.

By comparison, African-Americans boosted their numbers statewide by more than 287,000 - accounting for more than half of the state's 515,000 increase in population. Nearly half of the black growth - 132,759 - occurred in Prince George's County.

The only place in Maryland where blacks saw significant population losses was in Baltimore City, which registered a net loss of nearly 17,000 black residents.

The declines are most visible in a band of west and northwest Baltimore between Edmondson Avenue and Park Heights Avenue, and areas east of Greenmount Avenue. Many of those neighborhoods have been beset by drugs, crime and deteriorating housing,

Other neighborhoods where troubles are less apparent have also lost population. City Councilwoman Stephanie Rawlings-Blake represents Howard Park, an overwhelmingly black area of once-stately homes on the western edge of the city that lost 10 percent of its population in the 1990s.

She said the houses are big and expensive to fix up, and younger families don't want to spend the money on the properties because they're afraid their investment won't pay off.

"The property values haven't increased," she said. So, as elderly residents die, or have to give up their homes, many of those houses remain empty.

Other people have left distressed neighborhoods but remained in Baltimore. Tony Watson, who is black, moved two years ago from East Baltimore to the Hamilton section of Northeast Baltimore, settling in with an aunt and uncle who had bought a home.

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