The 1990 census has confirmed what many local residents have long suspected or known intuitively -- that for the past 20 years, Howard County has been the fastest-growing county in the state.

According to a Jan. 29 memorandum from Ronald M. Kreitner, director of the stateOffice of Planning, the county's 1990 official census count is 187,328 -- which is 58 percent or 68,756 people more than 10 years earlier.

That makes Howard, which is the state's second-smallest county geographically, the fifth largest in population, behind Montgomery, Prince George's, Baltimore and Anne Arundel.

The large suburban counties contiguous to Baltimore and Washington had their major expansion during the '50s and '60s, Kreitner observes. Howard's growth has comein the '70s and '80s.

During the '70s, for example, Howard grew 90 percent, from 62,394 to 118,572 -- a full 22 percentage points morethan any other county in the state. In the '80s, Howard grew at a pace 10 points greater than any of the state's other counties.

Despite its small size, Howard is less densely developed than neighboring jurisdictions, Kreitner said, which "means more land is being consumed by development (thus) threatening rural resources, farms and forests as well as environmentally sensitive areas."

Baltimore City, meanwhile, has had a steadily declining population since 1950, when it was inhabited by nearly a million people. The decline in the last decade (6 percent) was not as steep as in the previous one (13 percent), but it was enough to move the city into second place behind Montgomery County as the state's most populous jurisdiction.

The city has apopulation of 736,014, and Montgomery County has 757,027.

Factorsthat slowed Baltimore's decline in the last decade, Kreitner believes, are the "revitalization of the Inner Harbor" and an improved transportation system.

The city's decline is not unique, census figuresshow. Forty years ago, more than half of the state's population lived in municipalities. Now less than a third does. Howard has no incorporated municipalities.

While unincorporated areas like Howard grewby 19 percent overall, or 538,131 persons, in the last decade, the state's 154 incorporated municipalities grew by just 2 percent, or 26,404 persons.

That was not true of Laurel, Howard County's nearest municipal neighbor. Laurel grew from 12,103 to 19,438, a 61 percent increase. A decade earlier, it had grown by only 15 percent.

Howard's growth in the last decade was far greater than any neighboring county's. Baltimore County grew only 6 percent, while Prince George's grew 10 percent and Anne Arundel 15 percent. The two other contiguous counties, Montgomery and Carroll, grew at about half the pace here, with Montgomery adding 31 percent and Carroll 28 percent.

Statewide,the county most nearly approximating Howard's growth rate in the last decade was Calvert in Southern Maryland, with a population increaseof 48 percent.

Each local governmental unit's population is "the only item of information released from the 1990 census" thus far, Kreitner said.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad