The population of Maryland and the United States is skewing older, new 2020 census data shows. Maryland’s median age of 38.8 — the same as the national median — is eight-tenths of a year higher than it was in 2010.
The figures come from 2020 census data released Thursday. The Demographic Profile and Demographic and Housing Characteristics data, the third set of numbers released from the 2020 census, expands upon redistricting data released in 2021, including a more detailed look at age, sex, families, households and housing.
It also illustrates population trends over time, such as people living longer, living alone, having fewer children, and staying in their homes longer.
Residents filled out census forms online and by mail, and census enumerators knocked on doors to collect the decennial data. But the census was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, among other factors, which led to an undercount of young people, Hispanic people and African Americans.
The 2020 census marks a crossover period that will accelerate during the next 50 years when the proportion of older adults will outnumber people under 18 for the first time in history, said Christine Mair, associate professor of sociology and director of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Center of Health, Equity and Aging.
The globe and country will continue to age, Mair said, as people live longer and fertility rates remain low.
“It’s going to require a lot of rethinking of our housing stock, a lot of rethinking of how we support people, because if we have this big population that are aging and they have a smaller number of children, how are we gonna make sure that they get the care that they need when they go through health issues?” Mair said.
Census data is used to determine policy decisions, political representation, federal funding allocation, and to identify where to place community services such as hospitals and highways.
All of Maryland’s counties are getting older
The age distribution of a population is affected by birth and death rates and migration patterns. Maryland’s median age increased by only 0.8 years, while the median age increased nationally by 1.6 years.
The median age increased in all of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. Baltimore City remains the jurisdiction with the lowest median age at 35.5, despite an increase of 1.1 years over 2010. Garrett County had the largest jump in median age, increasing by 4.1 years to 46.8 in 2020.
Baltimore has lost population, and those who are attracted to move into the city could be younger people, consequently bringing the median age down, said Michael Bader, an associate professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University and director of the university’s 21st Century Cities Initiative, which conducts urban research.
For example, the largest five-year age group in Baltimore city is 25 to 29 year olds, which make up 9.7% of the city’s population.
“People are going to be on the younger side (moving into the city) and then you have a lot of older folks that are dying, just from old age. And so the balance of those two things may be leading to a reduction in the overall age in Baltimore City relative to other places where there’s just kind of more churn of people coming in and out all the time,” said Bader, speaking generally before viewing the new census data.
Older adults dying also could contribute to a younger median because people don’t live long enough to pull up the average age, said Linda Loubert, an economics professor at Morgan State University. Broken down by race, Baltimore’s population is 59% Black, and life expectancy among Black city residents is nearly nine years shorter than Maryland’s overall life expectancy.
The homeownership rate decreased in Maryland, following a national trend
The U.S. homeownership rate, or the percentage of occupied housing units inhabited by owners, has reached its lowest point in half a century, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Nationally, the country had 63.1% homeownership rate in 2020. Maryland’s rate was higher at 67.5%.
Maryland had the 11th largest drop in homeownership rate between 2010 and 2020, decreasing by about two and a half percentage points.
More residences were occupied in the past decade, but the number of people renting is increasing faster than people who own their homes.
Loubert said the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, which started shutting down life in the U.S. about three weeks before the “census day” of April 1, 2020, the date census respondents were asked to base their answers on, could shape the homeownership rate in the years to come as home builders recover from supply chain disruptions and remote work is normalized.
The Morning Sun
Maryland’s high cost of living is another factor. People in their 30s or 40s are more likely to have debt from student and other loans, making purchasing a home unfeasible or not a priority, Mair said. And more people are living alone, she added, but the country’s housing stock is not designed for smaller families.
Older adults also are staying in their homes until later in life. Those who opt to renovate their homes rather than sell, such as putting in a chairlift and other mobility changes, create a smaller inventory of available residences.
“The cost of buying a home is too high,” said Yolanda Muckle, president of Maryland Association of Realtors. “And the cost to rent is too high,” which is driving people to move out of the state.
She considers Maryland to be in a housing crisis because of the shortage of available homes.
“There’s not enough various types of housing such as duplexes, triplexes, accessory dwelling units. We need a larger mix of affordable housing for people,” Murkle said. “Some people feel as though ‘Why can’t we have single-family detached homes?.’ Well, they’re not necessarily affordable for everybody.”
Black homeownership, however, remained steady over the past decade in Maryland at 22.9% in 2020.
Maryland workers are often employed by the federal government and at universities and colleges, contributing to a large Black middle class, Loubert said. Those steady incomes contributed to the state’s higher rate of Black homeownership compared to other states. For instance, the percentage of Charles County homeowners who are Black increased from 36.2% to 45%, the largest jump in Maryland. In Baltimore County, Black homeownership also increased, to 20.2% from 17.6% in 2010.