What new Census data reveal about wealth, diversity, and connectivity in Maryland

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at The Baltimore Sun.

This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released two major datasets, the 2013-17 American Community Survey (ACS) and the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) report for 2017.

Because a full census of the country occurs only every 10 years, the ACS — a nationwide survey of about 3.5 million households — is a key source of social, economic and demographic information during intervening years. The newly-released ACS produces estimates for all places in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and is based on five years of survey data from 2013 to 2017.


The SAIPE program produces single-year income and poverty estimates. Because SAIPE combines survey data with population estimates and administrative records, its estimates generally have lower margins of error than ACS estimates. The U.S. Department of Education uses SAIPE estimates to calculate the allocation of schools’ Title I federal funds each school year.

Here’s what you should know.


Poverty has risen in Maryland and fallen nationally. A large racial gap persists.

» According to the ACS, 14.6 percent of Americans lived below the poverty threshold during the 2013-17 period. That’s lower than the 2008-12 poverty rate of 14.9 percent.

» Maryland’s overall poverty rate rose to 9.7 percent from 9.4 percent when comparing the two five-year periods.

» What about changes from year to year? According to the SAIPE statistics, which use other sources in addition to the ACS to calculate yearly rates, U.S. poverty dropped from 14 percent to 13.4 percent between 2016 and 2017.

» In Maryland, SAIPE estimates that 9.4 percent of residents lived in poverty in 2017 — a rate that was unchanged from 2016, after accounting for margins of error.

Maryland poverty rates by county, 2017

In Maryland, the Census Bureau's Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates estimates that 9.4 percent of residents lived in poverty in 2017 — a rate that was unchanged from 2016, after accounting for margins of error. Here are the 2017 poverty rates by county.

» Poverty has continued to differ along racial lines. The overall poverty rate is still twice as high for the state’s black residents as it is for its white residents, when comparing the five-year ACS periods.

A racial gap is also seen in homeownership, which, a recent study found, extends into home values.

» In Maryland, white residents are three times as likely to own their homes as black residents, according to the ACS.

» The racial gap in homeownership is repeated in metropolitan areas nationwide and has persisted since at least the last 1980s, according to separate research by the Urban Institute and Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.


» In the Baltimore metro region, the white homeownership rate, 72 percent, is 3.7 times the black homeownership rate of 19.6 percent. A recent analysis by the Brookings Institution found that homes in majority-black communities are valued less than homes in neighborhoods with no black residents — even after accounting for other characteristics such as crime rates and commute times.

Maryland rates well nationally for broadband connectivity, but Baltimore and the state's western- and southern-most counties lag.

» The 2012-17 ACS is the Census Bureau’s first five-year survey of households’ broadband internet use.

» Maryland has the seventh-highest broadband subscription rates in the nation, with 82.8 percent of households having broadband connections — the fastest kind of internet connection. That’s more than the national average of 78 percent.

» 69.5 percent of Baltimore’s households have broadband access, making the city one of ten counties with subscription rates that are below the state and national average. In September, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City spent $120,000 to give away 500 tablets with two-year high-speed internet subscriptions to public housing residents.

» Garrett and Somerset are the only counties with lower broadband subscription rates than Baltimore, at 68.9 and 63.8 percent, respectively.


Over a million Marylanders speak a language other than English at home.

The Morning Sun


Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the

» Between 2008 and 2012, one in six Maryland residents spoke “a language other than English” at home, according to ACS survey responses. During the 2013 to 2017 period, this statistic increased to 18 percent — more than a million people.

» The majority of residents who didn’t speak English at home said they spoke English “very well,” suggesting bilingualism is on the rise. As of July 2016, the state’s high schools can opt to award graduating seniors with a seal of biliteracy.

» In Carroll County, which adopted English as the official language in 2013, the percent of residents speaking a language other than English at home remained unchanged (5 percent).

Baltimoreans' commutes remain among the longest in the country.

» Baltimore is still on the top ten list of longest commutes. Residents of the metro region spent on average 30.8 minutes getting to work over the 2013-17 ACS period, putting the Baltimore area at eighth place among major metros, sandwiched between Boston and Seattle.

Time spent traveling to work in the Baltimore metro area, 2013-17 period

Workers 16 and older in the Baltimore metro region spent on average 30.8 minutes getting to work, according to the 2013-17 American Community Survey. More than two in ten workers traveled over 45 minutes to get to work.

To review the computer code that generated the analysis, go to