This past spring most Americans took a few moments to complete and return their census forms. The exercise, mandated by the Constitution to ensure proportional representation in the House of Representatives (and the Electoral College), takes place every ten years and has been a part of the socio-political landscape since 1790. Nevertheless, the last three or four rounds of census-taking have become targets for anti-government challenges (mostly rhetorical) who see in it an opportunity for the federal authorities to pry into our privacy. that the Constitution enshrines and prescribes the practice, and keeps all information aggregated and out of the hands of law enforcement, seem of little importance to them.
That same Constitutional mandate requires a report to the president by 31 December of that same year the census is taken, so we are still about three months away from the full official report. Nevertheless, state and local governments often have interim – even annual – censuses, and if all politics are local, we wanted to see how the Baltimore and Maryland numbers looked this past decade.
Overall, the population of the city of Baltimore (Maryland’s largest city by far) fell by just over 2% through this past decade (2000-2009). Much of that loss for the city was a gain for the region, though, for Maryland’s overall population grew by 7.6% (These statistics, and some of the others given in this posting may be found at the.). The present population of 637,418 does not match the hemorrhaging endured in the 1970s, though, when the city fell from a high of 939,000 (1960) to 786,770 by 1980’s accounting.
Of course, the social and economic shifts these numbers represent were not felt equally by all citizens. Baltimore became one of the great exempla of ‘white flight,’ as the Caucasian population fled to the surrounding counties and reduced their population in the city to one third, having been close to 60% in the early 1960s. Those who remained in the city were left with a shrinking tax base to try to retain the infrastructure that was designed for a population some 30% higher. A lack of funding for schools and law enforcement have continued the ‘cycle of poverty’ that some believe the city has been able to slow only in the last few years. But in tackling some of these issues we still can see some of the unfortunate distinctions that have marked the population realignments.
The unemployment rate, for example, exploded as early as the second half of 2004 in Baltimore (i.e., before the housing market implosion), though it has been slowly falling since (and currently is just below the national average). Yet the rate of unemployment among African Americans has both been higher than for Whites and Hispanics and slower to fall. This past August the rate was 16.3%, contrasted to 8.2% for whites (a slight rise) and 12% for Hispanics (a holding steady).
As for education, Maryland has done exceedingly well on national rankings, but not necessarily Baltimore, which hosts one of the oldest and best public schools in the nation (Baltimore City College), but has little else to show for the system. A at City College and at Baltimore Polytechnic might inspire ripples in the system, but it is early days to see.
Money is required for infrastructure and stability. Here too we see a notable split between the resources available to Baltimore and to the state within which it resides. The average income of a Baltimore resident is just over $40k (one wonders how far that number would plummet if those who work for Johns Hopkins University and live in the city were discounted) in comparison with almost $70,500 in the rest of Maryland.
The trends are not unique to Baltimore. Indeed, numerous east-coast cities (Philadelphia, PA; Wilmington, DE; Trenton, NJ; Providence, RI; even Washington DC) have suffered from such trends. But what needs further consideration is how the stresses on these urban centers are creating more of a mosaic of different brightly colored (brightly contrasted) blocks of class, race, education, opportunity… that is undermining the American story of a melting pot. Certainly Baltimore and Maryland seem like two different statistical worlds.