Immigration helped swell Maryland's population by nearly 40,000 residents during the 12 months that ended June 30, offsetting a larger-than-normal loss in the state's domestic population and narrowing the margin between its birth and death rates, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The data, released Tuesday, show that in that year, international migration brought Maryland 28,954 new residents, even as 15,295 existing residents left the state.
During the same period, the state saw 73,047 births and 47,373 deaths, for a "natural" population increase of 25,674, which is lower than in past years, according to the census data.
The state's overall population grew by 37,670 residents, or about 0.6 percent, to 5,976,407, after backing out factors not included in migration, births and deaths, the data show. That's a smaller net gain than in each of the past three years and one that largely would have been erased without immigration.
Numbers specific to Baltimore and the state's 23 counties won't be available until March, though economists said a large portion of the immigration growth was likely in the Washington suburbs in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
"It's that whole D.C., Northern Virginia, Maryland-suburbs-of-D.C. area that is a strong attractor," said Mark Goldstein, an economist who analyzes census data for the Maryland Department of Planning.
The state may also have seen growth in the Hispanic population in Baltimore and the Asian population in Howard County, continuing trends seen in recent years, Goldstein said.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has made attracting new families to the city a top priority of her administration and welcomed Hispanic families to be a part of that growth.
Kevin Harris, a spokesman for the mayor, said she found the new state numbers "encouraging" and reflective of "other data we have seen showing Baltimore is adding residents again for the first time in decades."
He also said Rawlings-Blake continues to welcome immigrant families to Baltimore.
"A lot of Baltimore's growth has come from the Hispanic community, and they in particular have contributed tremendously to the more than $2 billion in wages and small-business taxes that have flowed into the city since 2011 from immigrant communities," Harris said in a statement. "The Mayor believes working to attract and grow our Hispanic communities, while focusing on all families that are already here, helps Baltimore to grow for everybody and that's a good thing."
Daraius Irani, chief economist at the Regional Economic and Studies Institute at Towson University, said he will be interested in seeing the numbers broken down by local jurisdiction, but also by age and other demographics.
Such data will help paint a better picture of who is leaving Maryland, he said.
"Maryland is a high-cost state," he said, which may be causing young families to look elsewhere when buying homes. "Twenty percent down on a $150,000 home is a lot easier to get to than 20 percent down on a $300,000 home."
Given the recent downsizing of the federal workforce, older residents may also be hitting the road, Irani said.
"As people retire from the federal government, they move south where it may be less costly to live with more friendly weather," he said.
Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, whose office did not respond to a request for comment on the new census data, repeatedly said during his campaign that high taxes in Maryland were driving people out of the state.
Goldstein said the 15,000 residents who left the state in the year in question represent a large migration, but their departures would be difficult to tie to one factor, economic or otherwise.
Many states in the region experience net domestic migration losses on a yearly basis, and only see domestic gains in particularly strong years for their economies, he said.
While losses in domestic population are normal for Maryland, but they were particularly high this year. That accounts for why the overall gain came in lower than in recent years. The population increased by 55,732 from 2010 to 2011, 47,986 from 2011 to 2012 and 46,918 from 2012 to 2013.
Domestic fluctuations aside, immigration will likely remain the biggest factor when it comes to Maryland population growth as its domestic population ages, Goldstein said.
Per capita, Maryland ranked seventh among all the states for international migration as a proportion of its population between 2010 and 2014, Goldstein said, and ninth in overall migration totals — despite ranking 19th in total population size.
"Clearly, it's benefiting disproportionately from immigration," he said.
Irani agreed, saying the slimming margins between births and deaths will only serve to increase the importance of immigration for population growth in coming years.
"Immigrants tend to be younger, so they're going to have more kids," he said. "Just in sheer numbers, we're going to have a situation where new Americans are going to outnumber old Americans."
Nationally, the population grew by 2.4 million, or 0.75 percent, over the same 12-month period, to 318.9 million.
Florida overtook New York to become the nation's third-most-populous state, after California and Texas. North Dakota was the fastest-growing state of the year, fueled by rapidly expanding oil operations.
The District of Columbia was also on the fastest-growing list.
Md. population gains
For the year ended June 30
Source: U.S. Census Bureau