Squeezed out

March 23, 2007

People started to get out of Maryland in a big way last year. Yes, the Census Bureau estimate for 2006 shows the state gained in population - but that's because births far outnumbered deaths, and more than 21,000 immigrants arrived here from abroad. There's another category, though, and it tells a different story: 25,000 more people moved out of Maryland than into Maryland from elsewhere in the United States.

The biggest losers? Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The likely culprits? Congestion and the high cost of housing. Anne Arundel also showed a significant loss in this bracket (called net internal migration), and Howard and Baltimore counties were flat.

On a county level, some of the out-migration was simply to other more distant parts of the state, especially Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. Overall, nonetheless, Maryland lost, in just one year, fully half as many residents as it expects to welcome through the base realignment and closure program.

This raises an important question: As BRAC draws an estimated 40,000 people to Maryland over the next few years, will increased congestion and the pressure on housing prices simply drive other residents out of the state? The Census Bureau estimate shows significant influxes in York County, Pa., Berkeley County, W.Va., and Kent and Sussex counties in Delaware - all of which border Maryland, and all of which probably lured a sizable portion of those migrants across the state line.

That's too bad, because it does Maryland no good to lose residents to other states - especially when there's room for housing in Maryland, and it's not on farmland or in forests. It's in the city of Baltimore, which once had a population half again as large as it does now. It could again. But last year, Baltimore took the third-biggest hit after the D.C. suburbs when it came to net migration - losing nearly 8,000 more residents than it gained.

All of Maryland would benefit if, by a cooperative effort, marshaling the resources and talents of the state as a whole, Baltimore could once again be turned into a magnet for new residents.

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