Incomes on rise along waterfront

Census: Data show largest gains in tracts near the harbor and drops on the east and west sides.

August 13, 2002|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's waterfront has become a veritable Gold Coast, with household incomes rising substantially in the past decade from Federal Hill to Canton, new census figures show.

The sharpest increase occurred in a section along the Inner Harbor that includes parts of Federal Hill and Key Highway, where the median household income grew by more than 80 percent, to $77,340, a number that rivals some of the traditionally wealthier neighborhoods in North Baltimore.

At the same time, household incomes in many lower- and middle-income neighborhoods in East and West Baltimore - including many of those north of the Johns Hopkins medical complex and along the Liberty Heights and Park Heights corridors - showed significant declines, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

"It's a real mixed bag," said Dunbar Brooks, director of metropolitan research for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

The rise in incomes in communities near the water - which have experienced an explosion in residential building, including the rehabbing of individual rowhouses and the conversion of old factories to apartments - is largely the result of the "influx of young professionals," Brooks said.

Declines elsewhere can be attributed mostly to the exodus of middle-class families, which has left many communities increasingly populated by those who can't afford to move and by elderly residents on fixed incomes, he said.

"That's one of the effects of out-migration," he said.

The new numbers are compiled from the 2000 census "long-form" questionnaires that were filled out in April 2000 by one of every six households.

They provide the first look at trends in Baltimore City for the past decade at the tract, or neighborhood, level in income - as well as in commute times, housing costs and other subjects.

Previously, the Census Bureau released "long-form" data for the state, for the city and Maryland's 23 counties, and for dozens of "designated places" - general geographic areas such as Towson and Woodlawn.

Those figures showed that median household income in Maryland grew 3 percent after allowing for inflation, from $51,123 in 1990 to $52,868 in 2000.

In the city, median household income declined by $1,132, while it grew in each of the metro area's five suburban jurisdictions, from $257 in Baltimore County to $5,014 in Carroll County.

The data provide the first statewide breakdown of income by race, down to the tract level.

Statewide, the median household income for blacks was $41,652, or 72 percent of the median white household income of $57,831.

In the Baltimore area, median household income of blacks was $37,549, two-thirds that of whites - a fraction unchanged since 1990 as income for both races grew by about 7 percent, according to an analysis by the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research at the State University of New York at Albany.

Median household figures mean that half the households have higher incomes and half have lower.

Median black household income was highest in Howard County - $57,476, compared with $78,976 for whites - but at 73 percent of white income, it was just slightly higher than the state average.

Black household income was closest to that of whites in Prince George's County, where the median black household earned $53,938 - 90 percent that of the median white household income of $59,937. Not far behind was Baltimore County, where black household income of $44,805 was 86 percent of whites' income of $52,011.

Comparisons between 1990 and 2000 using the new data are difficult for many suburban communities because many tracts have changed.

In Howard County, for example, half of the tracts of the 2000 census cannot be compared to 1990 because growth forced them to split.

Of the remaining 20 tracts, four communities lost ground, including Columbia's Thunder Hill neighborhood, where the median household income dropped 9 percent, to $82,064.

By comparison, the Scaggsville area in southern Howard saw a 22 percent increase, to $98,852.

In Carroll County, Sykesville, a town of 4,000 in the southern part of the county, showed the greatest increase in median household income, rising from $50,897 to $63,158.

"What the census numbers tell me is that we're a nice community that's close to those high-paying jobs in Baltimore, Columbia, and even Frederick and Washington," said Town Manager Matthew H. Candland.

In Baltimore County, with few exceptions, the inside-the-Beltway communities saw little significant income growth.

The prosperous Ruxton-Riderwood area had one of the largest gains in the county, nearly 25 percent, but the other big income gains were mostly confined to more newly developed areas such as White Marsh.

The census data showed a noticeable uptick in incomes for residents along the waterfront on the county's east side. Bowleys Quarters, for example, increased from $37,480 to $45,485, a change of 21 percent.

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