Montgomery leads state in wealth

Census: The D.C. suburb's affluence stands out when compared with Baltimore and other suburban counties.

November 20, 2001|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Montgomery County residents are the best paid and most highly educated in any of Maryland's large metropolitan counties, according to new survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Washington suburb also enjoys the highest home values among the state's five largest jurisdictions and the smallest percentage of its residents living in poverty.

"It's a combination of both planning and good geographic fortune," countywide planning chief Jeffrey Zyontz said.

Montgomery's proximity to Washington and to a wealth of government-funded research institutions has attracted many well-schooled people, Zyontz said.

"It's highly educated people who bring in high incomes," he said, "and we've done a good job of providing the services and attributes that high-income people want."

FOR THE RECORD - The headline on a census story Tuesday incorrectly reported that Montgomery County leads the state in wealth. Although Montgomery's median household income, $70,794, is the highest among Maryland's five largest subdivisions, Howard County ranks first at $77,000. Howard was not included in the census survey. The Sun regrets the errors.

In the survey, conducted last year, Montgomery County's wealth stood out sharply against not only the poverty of Baltimore City, but also the more moderate affluence of the Baltimore suburbs. Montgomery County's median household income of $70,794 was more than twice that in Baltimore City ($30,654), and compared with $61,668 in Anne Arundel and $48,858 in Baltimore County. Home values in the survey followed a similar pattern.

But not all the superlatives belong to Montgomery County, according to data released today from the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, known as C2SS. For example:

Prince George's County had the lowest median age (33.8) and the smallest proportion of people over 65 (8 percent).

Anne Arundel County had the highest percentage of family households (74 percent), with the most cars in their garages - 68 percent of households had the keys to two or more cars.

Baltimore County had the quickest commutes; the largest percentage of jobs in manufacturing (9 percent); and the smallest portion of renters (34 percent) who spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Baltimore City offered the lowest median monthly housing costs for owners ($840) and the lowest median rents ($545).

The new data are not part of the 2000 Census. They were gathered last year as part of a separate survey of 890,000 housing units nationwide. Included in today's release are data from 8,126 households in Baltimore City and Montgomery, Prince George's, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.

The survey did not reach people living in institutions and cannot be compared directly with any prior year's data. And, because it's a survey, all data are estimates, subject to margins of error, big and small. More accurate readings on the same topics will come with next year's release of Census 2000 long-form data.

The C2SS survey was an effort by the Census Bureau to test the accuracy of its survey methods against the long form, which was completed by one household in five during last year's census.

The bureau wants Congress to replace the decennial long form by 2010 with a smaller annual survey, called the American Community Survey.

The C2SS survey reached 1,874 of Montgomery's 326,000 households. They revealed a county that exceeds the other four jurisdictions in almost every measure of affluence.

The county's median household income ($70,794), ranked seventh among the 216 counties profiled nationally by the survey.

Only 4.8 percent of Montgomery households reported incomes below the federal poverty line, putting the county 201st among the 216 counties surveyed.

The median value of owner-occupied houses in Montgomery was $226,520, ranking 27th among the 216 counties surveyed. But newer housing and vacant housing were relatively scarce in Montgomery.

"We are the biggest generators of jobs within the state," Zyontz said. "There's no question that leads to higher housing demand, and ultimately it has an effect on prices if you don't increase supply."

Ninety-two percent of Montgomery residents over age 25 had high school diplomas. And 56 percent had bachelor's degrees - nearly twice the rate in Prince George's, Arundel and Baltimore counties.

Montgomery residents are the state's most diverse. Twenty-six percent were foreign-born, according to the survey, and 30 percent of those older than 5 spoke a language other than English at home. Of those, almost 40 percent said they did not speak English "very well."

Prince George's County residents suffer the longest commutes in the region - 35 minutes on average. Baltimore County residents have the shortest - 26 minutes.

But there's more money at the end of the commute for Prince George's residents. Median household income there ($55,371) topped that in Baltimore County ($48,858).

The survey contrasts Maryland's suburban affluence with Baltimore's poverty.

Overall last year, 21 percent of city residents lived in poverty. For households headed by women with no husband present, the poverty rate was 27 percent; for children under the age of 18, it was 35 percent.

More than a quarter of city households received some sort of public assistance based on need.

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