Marylanders older, educated, diverse

RACE -- Black, Hispanic, Asian populations grow significantly

GENDER -- Snapshot shows 93 men for every 100 women in state

Changes could sway politics

Census Report


Marylanders are older, better educated and more diverse than ever before, according to a statistical snapshot of the nation released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The median age of the state's nearly 5.5 million residents crept up to 37 last year, about nine months older than at the beginning of the decade.

With one of the nation's best-educated populations, the proportion of Maryland residents with college degrees also inched upward, to almost 35 percent.

And in a state where blacks make up one of the largest percentages of the population of any in the nation, their presence grew, to 29 percent of its residents. Maryland's Hispanic and Asian populations, though relatively small overall, also grew significantly in the past five years.

The shifts in the state's population, as detailed in the Census Bureau's 2005 American Community Survey, could if they continue sway state and local elections, experts say. Latinos, at least in recent elections, have tended to vote more for Democrats.

The population changes already are affecting commerce and culture throughout Maryland. Asian-owned businesses, for instance, have increased 20 percent in recent years, census data show. They generated $7.1 billion in revenue in 2002, the last year for which figures are available.

Maryland "has been getting more diverse for a couple of decades," says Mark Goldstein, who analyzes population data for the Maryland Department of Planning. "But it may be accelerating, that trend."

Overall, minorities accounted for nearly 96 percent of the state's population growth from 2000 to 2005, according to an analysis by state planners. As a result, the population of non-Hispanic whites slipped to just under 60 percent of the total last year - well below the national average of 67 percent.

At a time when the nation is debating immigration policy, the survey reveals that nearly one in eight Marylanders says he or she was born outside the United States. Five years ago, one in 10 Marylanders claimed foreign birth. More than 85 percent of Marylanders reported that they speak only English at home. But about 300,000 Marylanders, or nearly 6 percent, say they are not fluent in English - an increase of roughly 20 percent since 2000.

Montgomery County, the state's most-populous jurisdiction, is one of its most diverse. It has the largest proportion of Hispanic and Asian residents. And 29 percent of its residents say they were born outside the United States. Prince George's County has the largest black population in the state - 542,000, or about two-thirds of the total.

African-Americans make up two-thirds of Baltimore's population, or about 396,000 people. Nearly 14,000 city residents said they are Hispanic or Latino, a 27 percent increase from five years before.

While municipal officials - anxious to rebuild Baltimore's population - have laid out a welcome mat for immigrants, the census survey indicates that Baltimore County has a larger Hispanic or Latino population than the city, nearly 19,000 people. That is roughly 5,000 higher than in 2000.

"It snuck up on everybody," said Eduardo D. Hayden, who represents the Latino community on an ethnic diversity council organized by Baltimore County government. Compared to the highly visible concentration of Latino businesses and residents in East Baltimore, Hayden said, "We're more spread out here in the county."

Unlike the once-per-decade census, the survey released today is an estimate rather than a true head count. It is based on interviewing a sample of the population. Each tally has a margin of error; the smaller the group, the less reliable the estimate. Also unlike the census, the survey does not include people living in group quarters, such as college dormitories, military barracks, prisons and nursing homes.

In both the survey and the census, community leaders and others who serve the Baltimore area's Latino population contend that the government seriously underestimates the actual number of residents. Language barriers, fear or distrust of government or immigration status may be factors in the undercount, advocates say.

Even so, the growth of Hispanic residents in the suburbs is becoming noticeable. A bilingual newspaper and Spanish radio station have sprung up in recent years to serve the Baltimore area's growing Hispanic population. LatinoFest, which for 26 years has celebrated Hispanic food, music and culture in the city, is branching out to hold its first suburban bash Aug. 26 in Towson.

"It's growing, growing, growing, and it continues to grow," Jose Ruiz, executive director of Education Based Latino Outreach, said of the suburban Hispanic growth. "I don't see it stopping."

Ruiz said his Baltimore-based group, which has been working with city schools for years, plans to offer its first after-school program in Baltimore County this fall, at Deep Creek Middle School. That is just one of several "pockets" of Hispanic residents that are forming in the county, observers say.

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