COLLEGE PARK — Pick two residents, at random, of Adelphi — the bedroom community wedged between Silver Spring and College Park — and there’s more than an 80 percent chance that they will be of different races, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday.
It is Maryland’s most diverse community: About 25 percent white, 37 percent black, 8 percent Asian and 25 percent who self-identify as “other.” More than 40 percent of the residents are Hispanic.
“Everything is close by,” said Judith Joseph, 29, who moved to Adelphi from India about 10 years ago to pursue higher education. “Everything” nearby includes dozens of international supermarkets and ethnic food restaurants.
Adelphi is the heart of Maryland’s diversity corridor. The state’s most diverse communities — where there is a more than 75 percent chance, as determined by the USA Today Diversity Index, that two random residents are of different races — are clustered between Interstate 270 and Route 50, stretching across county lines from Montgomery Village down to Colmar Manor.
The meat of Maryland’s diversity is sandwiched between the Western Maryland mountains and the Eastern Shore, where the state’s least diverse towns — 100 percent white, in some cases — are mapped.
The diversity in Maryland’s middle is no accident. In Gaithersburg, for example, the City Council has instituted policies to encourage diverse growth.
Gaithersburg requires affordable housing in new developments in order to provide options for people at different income levels, has a committee focusing on multicultural affairs — that puts on recreational activities focusing on racial minority communities — and hosts an annual housing fair where guidance is offered to potential homeowners, said Council Vice President Jud Ashman.
All of these policies speak to “pull factors,” reasons people pick up and move into a community: Better educational and job opportunities, affordable housing and ease of establishing infrastructure, said Jeanne Batalova a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that studies the movement of people.
Business incentives also make people more likely to act as pioneers, Batalova said.
In order to promote economic development in Gaithersburg, the city offers permit fee waivers, promotes English and banking classes and maintains an economic development “toolbox” — approximately $2.5 million for fiscal year 2011 — to draw and retain businesses in the city, said Michael Sesma and Cathy Drzyzgula, members of the City Council.
The policies have worked: Although a hair more than 50 percent of Gaithersburg’s residents are white, the black and Asian populations are nearly equal parts of the population — around 16 percent — and almost a quarter of residents are Hispanic.
“We’ve always embraced everyone,” said Mayor Sidney Katz, who has served in the city government for more than three decades. “Our greatness is our partners and our people.”
Katz’s grandparents — Lithuanian immigrants — moved to Gaithersburg in 1918 because, even then, the city offered educational opportunities and municipal services that would help them attain a “better life,” Katz said.
For immigrants, Batalova said, it is often the case that a few people of a certain racial or ethnic group move into a community, establish themselves and then friends and family follow.
“The (personal) network is perhaps the most powerful driving force,” said Batalova.
In Langley Park, a community crisscrossed by six-lane streets and studded by strip malls, some of the last decade’s Hispanic population growth — up from about 63 percent to 77 percent over the last decade — is due to personal ties.
For instance, Maria del Carmen Castillo, 31, moved to the Langley Park area about five years ago, one year after her sister’s family moved from El Salvador to Montgomery County.
When asked why she moved to be nearer her family, Castillo’s response — as translated by her niece, Rosa Rodriguez, 13 — is unequivocal: “Because I needed to.”
Maryland Newsline’s Maite Fernandez contributed to this report.