Close to home

August 16, 2006

Because Maryland has so few Hispanics and Asians, relatively speaking, it's noteworthy that a new Census Bureau survey found that their numbers have been increasing here sharply over the past five years. But the real significance in this mid-decade statistical snapshot? It's the story it tells about African-Americans.

Half the growth in the state's population since 2000 is because of the increase in the number of black Marylanders. They made a much bigger difference than any other racial or ethnic group. African-Americans are 28.5 percent of the population, which puts Maryland in a tie for fourth among the states, behind only Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, and even with South Carolina.

But the Census Bureau report - called the American Community Survey - shows more. What Maryland is gaining is a black suburban population, and this is an indicator, though a rough one, of the continuing growth of the black middle class.

In the past five years, the black population of Baltimore has declined faster than the white population (24,000 to 22,000). The number of black residents in Baltimore County over that period rose by 30,000, while the county population has gone up by only 14,000. The same was happening at the other end of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway: The white population of Washington dipped by 9,000, while the black population went down by nearly 50,000. But in Prince George's County, home to 26,000 fewer whites than five years ago, the black population went up by 40,000.

In fact, by last year, suburban Prince George's had just barely surpassed the city of Baltimore as the Maryland jurisdiction with the largest proportion of black residents. And though the changes were less dramatic in Montgomery and Howard counties, the percentage of black residents in both places is nevertheless increasing.

One implication, of course - and it's borne out by the numbers - is that whites are leaving the inner suburbs for more distant counties, such as Harford and Calvert.

Taken together, this spells significant change. A more prosperous black population, more cars, more pressure to extend sprawl outward. Republicans are hoping that as blacks keep moving to the suburbs they'll stop voting Democratic, but there has been little evidence of that so far, and Baltimore County may look more and more like a Democratic stronghold. Asian and Latino growth is important - and welcome - but the biggest transformation in Maryland is rooted in its black community.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.