Thursday, February 10, 2011

new census numbers show a majority-minority montgomery, sort of

On Monday, I promised to tell y'all the ten densest places in Montgomery County. Before I do that, though, here's some more exciting, Census-related news:

Chompy and Hippie Guitarist
Montgomery County's becoming even more diverse, especially in urban centers like downtown Silver Spring. No word on whether the shark population is increasing.

Last summer, I spoke with Rollin Stanley, director of the Montgomery County Planning Department, who said he was looking forward to seeing the 2010 Census results. "I'll bet we'll see Montgomery County becomes majority-minority for the first time," he says.

And he was right, sort of. Last Wednesday, the Planning Department sent out a press release stating that a growing Montgomery County means an increasingly diverse one. An excerpt:

SILVER SPRING, MD – Montgomery County’s population has grown more diverse over the last decade, becoming a majority-minority county for the first time, according to recently released 2010 U.S. Census data. The figures are based on 50.7 percent of residents identifying themselves as Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian or Pacific Islander or an ethnicity other than non-Hispanic White . . .

“Those places in America that are attractive to new people are the places that will prosper,” said Planning Director Rollin Stanley. “The increase in minority population is a solid foundation for our county. Most new businesses will be started by people in the minority community. This will add to the retailing, services and cultural diversity of the county, which benefits everyone.”

Calling Montgomery County "majority-minority" is a little misleading, because the Census doesn't use "Hispanic" to refer to a specific race but, rather, people of any race who identifies as Hispanic. In other words, someone from Portugal could say they're both Hispanic and white, whereas someone from El Salvador could say they're Hispanic. As a result, the 2010 Census figures say that Montgomery County is 49.3% white after taking out people who identify as both Hispanic and white. Keep them in, and MoCo retains a slim white majority.

Pho Comida Tipica
Restaurants in downtown Wheaton illustrate the growth of Montgomery County's immigrant population.

Nonetheless, this should be a big deal to anyone who still thought that Montgomery County is still a lily-white bedroom suburb, because it's totally not. It's especially important to Rollin Stanley, whose push to create more urban centers in the county at places like Wheaton or White Flint is partially founded on the notion that immigrants, having lived in big cities abroad, prefer them to suburban areas. This theory is supported by former University of Maryland professor Dr. Shenglin Chang, who produced a hefty report on the subject back in 2004.

You can visit the Planning Department's 2010 Census page for more statistics. It's remarkable to see that Montgomery County was almost three-quarters white just twenty years ago. Save for Prince George's County, which is 64% Black, Montgomery has a smaller share of white residents than any every other county in the region. At the same time, it has grown as fast as Fairfax County, MoCo's pseudo-twin and occasional competitor across the Potomac. (Montgomery County is growing nowhere near as fast as Loudoun County, which has nearly doubled in population over the past ten years.)

(Much to my satisfaction, Montgomery County, Maryland is far more diverse than its bizarro cousin above the Mason-Dixon Line, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, which in the 2009 American Community Survey was still 84% white. If you've never been, take Chevy Chase and Potomac and imagine that they were an entire county, then put one of the largest shopping malls in the country in the middle.)

5 comments:

jag2923 said...

I just checked newly released census data for the Silver Spring CDP and it says the population decreased over 5,000 since 2000...how does that make sense? Did the definition of what areas make up the CDP change? I feel like that's the only explanation....

2010 data: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=DEC_10_PL_GCTPL1.ST13&prodType=table

2000 data:
http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=DEC_00_PL_GCTPL.ST10&prodType=table

(links only worked for me in IE.)

Critically Urban said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

Does anyone know what is driving the demographic changes in Moco? Certainly, new immigrants prefer to live in areas where there is already an enclave of earlier immigrants from a particular country/region. But, I also assume (could be wrong here) that there are government policies driving the change. Maybe things like affordable housing policies, but I can't image that such programs are so well funded that they are behind such dramatic demographic changes in the last 10 years. Any thoughts?

jag2923 said...

Hey Mark, I think you're probably right that affordable housing programs aren't influencing the numbers very much. My guess would be numbers are influenced by the naturally affordable lifestyle that the superb public transit in MoCo provides. Obviously, housing costs in downtown bethesda or downtown silver spring are too high for many immigrants, but the downtowns of silver spring, wheaton, etc. are all very accessible through buses and such. Similarly, outside of the beltway, many regions around the metro stations are still somewhat affordable. Those factors are very appealing for those just getting on their feet, whether we're talking about someone just graduating from college or someone who recently immigrated from somewhere else (including people who are coming from other, less expensive, cities who can't afford $2500 1brs in DC).

Thomas Hardman said...

@Mark: what's driving the concentration of "immigrants" (what a ridiculously vague and internally self-contradicting conflation!) in a lot of places is a recent cooperation between MoCo's Department of Police and the various managers of commercial-residential properties such as apartment communities and condo communities characterized by lots of rentals and/or sublets.

When the property-managers and police start working together, especially in such places as the adjacent Hewitt Avenue and Northgate Aspen Hill tracts, we see a massive zero-tolerance of crime and zero-admissions of new residents with "unsatisfactory background check results". Illegal alien gangsters with conviction records for substance distribution, for example, are not getting a lease in any apartments. But people renting out single-family detached residental homes, and until recently the realtors moving "liar loan" and "variable APR" or "interest only" mortgages, they're very tolerant as long as they can get someone to sign on the dotted line and get their commissions paid. This means that crime and overcrowding and code-violations have moved into "the houses" rather than being concentrated in "the apartments".

@jag2923: calling any place at all "affordable" in MoCo is applying astonishing revisionism to the word.

@Dan: you write the Census doesn't use "Hispanic" to refer to a specific race but, rather, people of any race who identifies as Hispanic. In other words, someone from Portugal could say they're both Hispanic and white, whereas someone from El Salvador could say they're Hispanic. As a result, the 2010 Census figures say that Montgomery County is 49.3% white after taking out people who identify as both Hispanic and white. Keep them in, and MoCo retains a slim white majority.

I should point out that for some reason the vast majority of our latinoamericano (or centralamericano) community identifies themselves only as "hispanic", when in fact they should identify themselves as both Native American/Indigenous and "hispanic". At least in Aspen Hill, the vast majority of "hispanics" are in fact nearly pure native-americans, although more from the Maya side of life than, say, Dineh (Navajo) or even Tselagi (Cherokee). Although they are not a treaty nation people, there is a much higher density of native-americans in Aspen Hill than in the capital of the Navajo Reservation.

For what it's worth, a near neighbor is from Madrid, has blond hair and blue eyes, speaks the actual Spanish of Spain (not this rural hick talk you usually here around this place), and may be the only Hispanic White in the whole Aspen Hill CDP tract.