WASHINGTON – Maryland’s black population made the most sizeable gains among minority groups in the state during the 1990s, according to new figures from the state and the Census Bureau.
African Americans led other groups both in the sheer number of new residents in Maryland and in their gains in the percentage of the overall state population. Blacks went from 25 percent of the overall state population in 1990 to 28.1 percent in 1999, according to the latest estimates.
Hispanics and Asians also grew in number and in their share of the state population during the decade, while the number of Native Americans in Maryland stayed relatively level.
The white share of the overall state population dropped, however, from 69.6 percent in 1990 to 64.3 percent in 1999, according to the statistics. Whites were also the only group whose numbers actually fell during the decade, losing 3,988 from the 3.3 million whites in the state in 1990.
Delegate Talmadge Branch, D-Baltimore, and chairman of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, said he does not expect any political fallout from the shift in population. He attributed the changes to a “massive inflow of immigrants” into the state, which he said is the result of “positive planning.”
“With the state’s economy getting stronger, the state legislators are inviting people to come and settle in the state by lowering property tax and offering people more jobs,” Branch said. “Maryland today advertises and invites people from all over the country to come and settle here.”
While blacks gained statewide, the increase in their share of the population was most marked on the Lower Eastern Shore, where African Americans went from one-quarter to almost one-third of the population. In Somerset County, blacks now make up 47.5 percent of the population, just shy of whites’ 50.8 percent.
Delegate Rudolph Cane, D-Wicomico, said he was “shocked” by the figures for the Lower Shore, particularly for Somerset. Cane is the first black elected to the State House from the Eastern Shore.
“As far as I know, the Eastern Shore was an area that was attracting only retired people,” said Cane. “The county is not the most aggressive economically.”
The estimates, from the Maryland Department of Planning, are based on Census Bureau figures released in August.
Experts said they had not had a chance to really the study the figures and were reluctant to speculate on reasons for the gains in the number of African Americans. But many said the state’s strong economy likely played a role, along with the continued flight of blacks from cities to suburbs.
“In the 1980s, when the state had one of the five strongest economies in the country, there was a mass migration of whites from other states,” said Mark Goldstein, economist at the Maryland Department of Planning.
“The economic recession in the early ’90s saw a net migration loss for Maryland. The economy has now picked up again, but not to the extent to which it tempts whites to leave other states,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein further attributes the steady inflow of minorities into the state as part of a growing trend in America — migration from bigger cities to the suburban areas in search of a better quality of life.
“Much of black population and other minorities that are coming into the Maryland suburbs are those that used to reside in the District of Columbia and Baltimore, which are predominantly black in population,” said Goldstein. “The suburbs of Maryland offer their children better schools and recreation and the cost of living here in the suburbs is much cheaper when compared to the cities.”