Less than half of Marylanders now identify as white, a reflection of the nation’s increasing diversity over the past decade, according to the 2020 census data released Thursday.
The once-in-a-decade head count also showed that Baltimore’s population continued to shrink, with the city losing 5.7% of its population since 2010.
The data released Thursday will be used to draw new boundaries for congressional and local legislative districts, shaping the political landscape for the next decade. The population numbers also help determine how federal dollars are divvied up among states and communities and where new schools and roads are built.
Nationally, the census painted a picture of growing diversity as the country’s white population shrank for the first time since the census has been taken. The figures from Maryland show that non-Hispanic white residents made up 47% of the state’s population in 2020, down from 55% in the 2010 count.
The share of Marylanders identifying as Asian, Hispanic or Latino increased over the past decade. The Asian population grew to 7% from 5% of the state’s population, and Hispanic or Latino to 12% from 8%.
The proportion of Black residents was 29%, which was unchanged from the 2010 count.
And the percentage of Marylanders identifying as two or more races doubled, to more than 4%.
Baltimore’s continued population loss was expected and had been foreshadowed by annual population estimates, which suggested that the number of city residents in 2019 dropped below 600,000 for the first time in more than a century.
The city’s population fell to 585,708 during the 2020 census, down from 620,961 in 2010.
That erosion contrasts with the growth seen in many American cities since the last census, said Seema Iyer, who oversees the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute. Philadelphia, she noted, grew by more than 5% and Chicago reversed its previous population decline.
“It was certainly the decade for cities, but Baltimore wasn’t on that list,” Iyer said.
Iyer emphasized that change has been uneven throughout the city, with some neighborhoods experiencing growth while others are suffering severe population loss. An analysis by her team shows that South Baltimore, for instance, grew by 28% since 2010, while Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park lost 29% of its population.
In response to the city’s population decline, Mayor Brandon Scott announced on Thursday “Baltimore’s Growth Plan for 2030.”
The mayor said the plan will be an “equitable, neighborhood-focused development strategy” to increase the number of families in the city. He highlighted the desire to retain current families and attract new ones, including middle-income earners and immigrants.
The new data is just the latest evidence of the city’s 70-year population decline, the Democratic mayor noted in a statement.
”Understanding that much of Baltimore’s 21st century population loss has been driven by an exodus of African American households, my administration will be focused on equitable economic development,” Scott said in a statement. “We can no longer leave any corner of our city behind.”
Scott said his growth plan will combine violence prevention, increasing affordable rental and homeownership opportunities, supporting Black-, brown- and women-owned businesses, and improving mass transit. Some of the efforts will be paid for with funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
The city’s population loss is “an urgent issue that must be given the significant thought and the resources that are required to turn the tide,” said Don Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, a business booster group.
”Although the city has its challenges, it has the attributes to attract population,” he said in a statement, pointing to affordable housing, historical and cultural attractions, and world-class universities and health systems.
Meanwhile, Frederick and Howard counties were the fastest growing in Maryland, with both experiencing population increases of about 16% in the past 10 years.
Anne Arundel County grew by 9% and inched ahead of Baltimore to become the state’s fourth-largest jurisdiction. But that ranking could flip again when the state adjusts Thursday’s data to count imprisoned people at their last known address, rather than where they are incarcerated, as required by state law.
Other counties outside Baltimore also grew: Harford County by nearly 7%; Baltimore County by 6%; and Carroll by 3%.
Within the city, both the Black and white populations declined over the past decade, noted Mac McComas, senior program manager with the 21st Century Cities Initiative at Johns Hopkins University. The city’s Black population shrank by nearly 15% and the white population by about 10%.
While everyone has their own reasons for moving, concerns about school quality and violent crime are often cited by people as factors for why they leave Baltimore, he said.
“I think those two issues definitely play a large role,” he said.
However, the Hispanic or Latino population grew significantly, McComas pointed out. The new count shows about 46,000 such residents living in the city, an increase of nearly 77%.
City officials noted that the number of foreign-born residents also grew.
“As Baltimore continues to be a place of hope and prosperity for immigrant and refugee communities, we must continue to recognize the unique opportunities these communities bring to our city,” said Catalina Rodriguez-Lima, director of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, in a statement.
Two counties lost higher shares of their population than Baltimore City: Somerset County on the Eastern Shore by 7% and Allegany County in Western Maryland by more than 9%.
The Census Bureau in April released population totals for each state as part of the process of redistributing the 435 seats in the House of Representatives among states. Maryland’s number of representatives remains unchanged at eight seats.
Those numbers showed that the state’s population, now nearly 6.2 million, grew 7% in the past decade, among its slowest paces ever. That mirrored slow growth at the national level.
The information released Thursday is far more detailed, showing local-level population counts and the demographic composition of states and communities.
The data will be used in upcoming efforts to redraw political district boundaries at the local, state and Congressional level.
Already, both Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and leaders of the Democratic-majority Maryland General Assembly have created commissions to offer options for drawing the state and Congressional boundaries.
Hogan’s commission is comprised of a mix Democrats, Republicans and independents, and he’s pledged to back their proposal. He’s frequently spoken against gerrymandering, which is when one party manipulates the size and shape of districts for a partisan advantage.
But it’s the General Assembly that will have the final say.
Joanne Antoine, executive director of the good-government group Common Cause Maryland, said she hopes the governor’s commission and state lawmakers pay close attention to the demographic shifts as they draw the maps.
”If they’re truly working to center the voices of Marylanders — and it’s a majority of Black and brown folks — our Congressional maps and our local maps would look very different,” Antoine said. “Looking at the data that’s coming out, I think map makers have no choice but to make sure that the voices of these communities are really at the table.”
Baltimore’s continued population loss will be a challenge as the city tries to market itself as a great place to live and work, said Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs. It feeds into the idea that people are fleeing the city for the suburbs, which Hartley said is an “unfair image.”
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”Whenever we see a population loss, all of us in our community are concerned that this is going to lead to impressions that the city is again losing population and is it a place that people want to live?”
The population loss has financial and social implications, too, as federal government aid is distributed based on population formulas. Fewer people means less money for government programs that help in areas like public safety, education and social welfare.
Hartley also raised the possibility that Baltimore was undercounted in the census, given that it was conducted during the first wave of the pandemic and without strong support from then-President Donald Trump.
”A city like Baltimore could have been undercounted, and it has real financial impact and real human cost,” he said.
At a news conference to release the 2020 data, the Census Bureau’s acting director, Ron Jarmin, stood behind the quality of the data and said it was too early for to speculate on the under- or overcounting of any demographic group.
“The data we are releasing today meet our high data quality standards,” Jarmin said.
Baltimore Sun data journalist Steve Earley and reporter Clara Longo de Freitas contributed to this article.