“Baltimore is the new Brooklyn,” proclaims a 2009 song by Chicago soul band JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound.
For a specific slice of the population, the two places are looking increasingly similar. That group? White residents between the ages of 25 and 34.
People in their mid-20s to mid-30s make up a substantial share of the white population in Baltimore, Brooklyn and several cities across the country including Washington, D.C., which exhibits the most extreme example of this phenomenon, according to newly released Census Bureau estimates for 2018.
In Baltimore, more than a quarter of white residents now fall into that age category; in 2000, about 16% did.
The age imbalance among Baltimore’s white residents has persisted for at least the past decade.
“To me, this tells a historic lesson,” said Bill Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “Baltimore has been attracting these young whites and then sort of letting them go as they get older.”
The city’s mid-20s to mid-30s black and Asian populations also have grown over time, though, among Hispanics, that cohort has shrunk slightly each year since 2012.
Still, the age distribution of blacks, who have made up a majority of Baltimore’s population since the 1970s, remains relatively even. It resembles how the city’s white age distribution looked back in 1990, clustered among two age groups, one representing the younger working generation and one the retirement-age population.
As of 2018, 37% of Baltimore residents within the 25-to-34 age range were white and 51% were black; in 2000, it was 34% and 59%.
An influx of Millennials is not surprising to many of the city’s real estate developers, who cite such trends as a counterpoint to news about Baltimore’s continued population loss.
“The day your article came out about Baltimore’s population decline was the day we finished leasing Anthem House,” said Toby Bozzuto, CEO of The Bozzuto Group, referring to the $100 million luxury apartment complex in Locust Point that boasts some of the highest rents in Baltimore.
Such apartment buildings are “very appealing to that demographic” of young workers, he said.
Dominic Wiker, vice president and director of development at Washington Place Equities, which developed Mount Vernon’s 500 and 520 Park Avenue buildings, said that “of the 300 or so people [living there], we’ve got like one to two people over 40.”
Attracting early career professionals to Baltimore is one thing. Retaining them is another.
“I just can’t see myself raising a family in the city of Baltimore,” said Zack Ashkenazie, 24, who moved from Long Island to Locust Point a year ago to study at the University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry.
Councilman Zeke Cohen said that more investment in the city’s schools infrastructure, with an emphasis on walkability, would help stem the outflow of residents, regardless of race.
“We have spent a lot of time and energy attempting to lure other people into our city without always prioritizing the population that lives here already,” he said.
Wiker also expressed concern about the number of residents the city is able to retain.
“We can't succeed as a city if we're just replacing the people that just left,” he said.
It’s at the “moment of change” in somebody’s life, such as getting married, having children, or retiring, that people choose to move, said Seema Iyer, associate director of the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute.
Brian Zelip, 43, is facing such a moment. The Bolton Hill resident, who moved to the city with his wife in 2015 from Urbana, Illinois, had a daughter last May.
To stay or to go, “that’s the big question,” said Zelip, who came to Baltimore for a job as an Emerging Technologies Librarian at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Some programs target residents at these milestones to try to keep them in the city. For example, Live Baltimore’s Way to Stay campaign educates young parents on the range of education options for their children, such as public zoned and charter schools, Iyer said.
But for many, she said, “it’s just easier to find a place in surrounding counties.”
At 34, Cohen is himself a part of Baltimore’s white Millennial wave, but the councilman intends to reverse the pattern, saying he plans on staying in the city for “the rest of my life.”
“I want more people to choose to stay … whether it’s black or white Millennials,” he said. “I have no interest in Baltimore becoming Washington [D.C.].”