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Annie Jennemann

The Baltimore Sun

March 14, 2024

Baltimore City and Baltimore County were among three Maryland jurisdictions to lose population in 2023, according to newly released estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Net losses in domestic migration — more people left for another U.S. jurisdiction than moved from one — drove the declines.

Each jurisdiction’s decrease from July 2022 to July 2033 was not as drastic as the prior year’s, though. Baltimore City declined 0.7% to 565,239 residents and Baltimore County fell 0.2% to 844,703. Garrett County in Western Maryland was the other Maryland jurisdiction whose estimated population fell.

Among the other four Baltimore-area counties, Carroll grew fastest, climbing 0.7%, followed by Harford, up 0.3%, and Howard and Anne Arundel, each up 0.2%. Carroll and Harford were the only in the area with positive domestic migration. Every county in Maryland experienced positive net international migration, something only six other states can claim, according to a Census Bureau news release.

Nationwide, fewer counties experienced loss than the year prior with around 60% of counties in the U.S. gaining population between 2022 and 2023. This was up from 52% in 2022, according to the news release. The average change was an increase of 0.29%.

At 6.18 million, Maryland’s population, whose estimate was released in December, is the highest it’s been in four years.

“It’s very positive to see that … our population is increasing and that it is not in areas where it has been decreasing for the past decade or so; it is not decreasing as quickly as it was previously,” said Comptroller Brooke Lierman, who highlighted the importance of growing and attaining populations for economic development in her office’s 2023 State of the Economy report.

The data from the U.S. Census Bureau is part of the annual Population Estimates Program where populations are estimated for the nation, states, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, counties, cities and towns, as well as Puerto Rico. Age, sex, race and Hispanic origin data are to be released for counties and larger geographies in June.

Estimates, which are based on data as of July 1 of a given year, are calculated based on a decennial census base count at the start of a decade and used for 10 years. The agency takes the base population, adds births, subtracts deaths and adds the net migration. The Census Bureau cautions not to compare estimates with those in previous years because of changes in methodology. The yearly Population Estimates Program also helps to inform $675 billion in annual federal spending and provides a tool for state and local governments.

Numbers for the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson metropolitan statistical area, which includes growing Queen Anne’s County as well as the six Baltimore-area jurisdictions, indicate that many who are moving out of individual jurisdictions are leaving the region altogether. While the metro area’s population declined very slightly to 2.8 million, more people left the area for somewhere else in the U.S. than came from elsewhere in the country.

Housing costs are a lead factor for determining where people live, according to the comptroller’s 2023 report.

Michael Bader, a demographer and associate sociology professor at the Johns Hopkins University, said Baltimore’s lag behind some other East Coast cities in transitioning from a historically manufacturing-based economy may be contributing to its population decline.

Baltimore didn’t fit into general migration trends, according to Lierman. In the State of the Economy report, it was found people emigrating from Baltimore were leaving historically Black neighborhoods and moving to areas with a higher cost of living.

“Certainly there are quality of life and socioeconomic factors that are probably driving that migration that are different than the migration story [at] large in the state and, frankly, in the country,” Lierman said.

But overall in Maryland, fewer people left to move domestically, with the number of people moving shrinking by a third to a little over 30,000.

Across the state, net international migration not only increased after dipping right before and during the pandemic, but was higher than recorded in the previous decade as well at almost 33,000.

“Maryland was losing residents who were born in the United States and were moving to other places in the United States, but what gains came, came through international migration primarily,” Bader said. “And so the importance to Maryland of immigration shouldn’t be overlooked for Maryland residents and for legislature and for county governments.”

The jurisdictions with the most international migrants were Montgomery and Prince George’s counties surrounding Washington D.C., followed by Baltimore County and Baltimore City.

“Baltimore County remains a thriving, safe and diverse community which has grown significantly in recent decades — and we are excited about our potential to continue this growth into the future,” Baltimore County spokesperson Erica Palmisano said in a statement.

The Baltimore City Mayor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

“People stay here and move here because Carroll County has great schools and is a great community,” Kenny Kiler, president of the Board of Carroll County Commissioners, said in a statement. “It is very safe with great parks and a lot of agricultural land with many beautiful fields and pastures.”

Ten counties in Maryland had a negative natural change, meaning there were more deaths than births reported. Last year was the first in four years that Baltimore City reported a positive natural change, meaning there were more births than deaths. In years leading up to the pandemic, natural change in Baltimore City was trending down, but still positive. Baltimore County also had a positive natural change for the second consecutive year since having a negative natural change in 2020 and 2021.

Births decreased in Maryland as well as in every county between 2022 and 2023. The largest percentage decrease was in Garrett County with a decrease in births by 10%, though the overall number went down to 215 from 239.

All counties plus the state also had a decrease in the number of deaths in 2023. The largest percentage change was in Baltimore County, which experienced a nearly 8% decrease in deaths. Baltimore City was second with a 7.7% decrease.

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