By Kate Alexander
COLLEGE PARK – Maryland’s population ebbed further outward from its central cities over the last decade, as the outer suburbs registered the greatest growth rates in the state and Baltimore continued to bleed people, according to census numbers released Monday.
Overall, the state population grew 10.8 percent from 1990 to 2000, when it hit 5,296,486 people, according to Census 2000, the official decennial head count of the nation.
Calvert County’s population has grown 45.1 percent since 1990, far outstripping the overall state growth and topping all other counties’ growth rate in the decennial head count while Baltimore lost more than 11 percent of its population.
But while Calvert was growing the fastest, the inner suburbs of Washington, D.C., were growing the most. The Washington suburbs continued to be the center of the state’s population, with Montgomery and Prince George’s counties combining for more than 30 percent of the state’s total 5.2 million population.
Montgomery County retained its position as the state’s largest county with its 15.4 percent growth rate, an increase of 116,314 people to its 2000 population of 873,341.
Prince George’s County grew by 72,247 to 801,515, a growth rate of 9.9 percent. The county overtook Baltimore City as the second-largest jurisdiction in the state.
That these inner suburbs continued their growth is “good news for smart growth,” said Elizabeth Humphrey, spokeswoman for the state’s planning office. “It means these already urbanized areas are strong and attracting new people.”
Montgomery County’s chief demographer, Drew Dedrrick attributed that strength to an influx of Latino immigrants. He also noted that the county’s growing minority population has not come at the expense of diversity, as the white population has held steady at over 60 percent.
In Calvert, the state’s fastest-growing county, the welcomed rapid expansion is bringing new trials as well, said Greg Bowen, the county’s deputy director of planning and zoning.
The new people moving to Calvert County are drawn by the rural character, quality schools, low crime rates and low taxes, Bowen said. But he noted that much of the rural charm that has attracted people in the first place is being consumed by subdivisions that are springing up to handle that growth.
The rest of Southern Maryland also experienced an surge in population. Charles County, for instance, grew 19.2 percent since 1990.
Steve Magoom, Charles County planning director, said that in the past the region has gone virtually “undiscovered, but that’s changing.”
The biggest victim of the decade’s population change in Maryland was Baltimore, which was projected to experience one of the country’s biggest population drains. It saw its population fall from 736,014 in 1990 to 651,154 in 2000. The city also fell from second place in size to fourth place among state jurisdictions, behind Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties.
But the good news was that the loss, an 11.5 percent drop, was less than the 13 percent the state had anticipated, Humphrey said.
University of Maryland professor Charles Christian does not believe that difference represents a turning of the tides for Baltimore, because the conditions in housing, education and crime have not changed enough to attract new people into the city.
Tuesday’s numbers, which include population figures by race, Hispanic ethnicity and voting age, will be used by the General Assembly to draw new legislative and congressional districts for the election in 2002.