WASHINGTON – The majority of people relocating in Maryland are moving to suburban and, increasingly, outer-suburban areas, with the greatest numbers going to Frederick County, according to numbers recently released by the Census Bureau.
And officials and experts see that migration pattern continuing, even as many counties expect overall population growth to eventually slow.
“People still want to move to less crowded areas,” said Bill Caine, a comprehensive planner for Carroll County, which gained 9,888 people from 2000 to 2003 according to the Census’ “net internal migration” figures. That represented 6 percent of the county’s total population.
“It all comes down to how far they are willing to drive to work and still afford their house,” Caine said. “The trend for people moving out of urban areas — who can afford it — will continue.”
The Census figures do not strictly reflect migration between counties in the state, but lumps together movement within Maryland as well as between Maryland and other states. But county officials say they believe that most of the “internal” migrants are from in-state.
In Carroll and Harford counties, for example, officials said most of their migrants are coming from in-state, specifically working-age people from the Baltimore region.
Large and less-expensive lots for homes and a more spread-out population have made Carroll County an attractive place to live, Caine said.
“As fast as houses are building in Carroll County, people are moving,” he said.
The same is true in Harford County, which had a net 8,748 residents move in between 2000 and 2003, the fifth-highest shift in the state. A mix of “affordable housing prices, rural character and a good school system” has led to the population gains, said Dan Rooney, a comprehensive planner for the county.
Baltimore County gained 11,701 people, the second-highest total in the state.
While Harford, Carroll and Baltimore counties were gaining, Baltimore City saw a net internal migration loss of 37,683 residents over the same period, a 6 percent loss almost equal to the state’s total internal migration gain of 38,668.
The migration patterns are similar in the Washington, D.C., area, but a migration expert at the University of Michigan said it is the D.C. region that has the most influence on migration patterns in the state.
“People want to come to D.C., and Maryland deals with the overflow,” said William Frey, a professor at the university’s Population Study Center. “Some of it’s good and some of it’s bad.”
The baby boomers who came to Washington in the 1970s when “the government was in full blast” are now retiring and migrating out “footloose with government pensions,” Frey said. This movement of a “bulge of people” magnifies state migration trends that would otherwise be comparable with other states, he said.
Charles County, which had the second-fastest overall growth rate in the state, saw the fourth-highest net migration gains, adding 9,014 new residents, or nearly 7 percent of its total population.
By contrast, Montgomery County lost 12,313 people to internal migration. But that loss was negated by the nearly 34,000 people the county gained via foreign immigration.
The biggest statewide gain in internal migration occurred in Frederick County, which added 12,208 residents, nearly 6 percent of its total population.
Affordable housing and the county’s proximity to Washington, Baltimore, Hagerstown and Pennsylvania make it attractive to potential residents, said Amber DeMorett, a Frederick data planner.
But as more people migrate to Frederick County to get away from urban life, the rural areas have gradually become more suburban, to the dismay of some county residents, she said.
“Some people think of Frederick County as a farm community and don’t want it to be a bedroom community for D.C.,” she said. “There are different viewpoints on how life should be.”
-30- CNS 04-29-04