Minorities constituted more than half of Maryland’s preschool population in 2006, according to a state analysis of U.S. census data that show minorities have fueled virtually all of the state’s population growth this decade.
The data—released today by the U.S. Census Bureau—indicate that Maryland’s population is increasing because of immigrants and minority families arriving from other states, as the white population declines slightly.
An analysis of the data by the Maryland Department of Planning shows that the diversity is most apparent among young people, with minorities constituting 51 percent of children under age 5.
Maryland’s figures follow national trends in which one in three U.S. residents is a minority and nearly half of all children under 5 are minorities.
If projections are correct, it will become more eclectic. The state’s combined black, Asian, Hispanic and other minority populations have outpaced white growth for decades. Census figures show that as the state’s white population declined slightly between 2000 and 2006, other groups increased.
“It’s not going to be next year that you will see a majority-minority state, but it is certainly heading in that direction,” said Mark Goldstein, an economist with the Maryland Department of Planning.
Rising immigration, minority migration from other states and whites leaving Maryland all contribute to the demographic shift, said Goldstein. While the overall population grew between 2003 and 2006, more people moved out of Maryland than moved in. Over the same period, the white population declined.
On average, Asians, blacks and Hispanics in the population tend to be younger than whites, and immigrant families tend to be of child-bearing age, all contributing to a more diverse younger population, said Mark Mather, a demographer with the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau in Washington.
In examining the census figures, Mather found that while 45 percent of the under-5 population are minorities, 80 percent of the over-60 population are white.
“Some people have found that social programs could suffer because a homogenous population over 55 may not want to devote resources to a younger population that is racially and ethnically fragmented,” he said.
Other say the growing diversity of the student population might exacerbate the achievement gap between whites and some minority groups.
In Baltimore County, for example, a school system that was once predominantly black and white is growing more diverse, adding to the challenges, said Barbara Dezmon, an assistant to the superintendent for equity and assurance.
This school year, Baltimore County’s school population is 49 percent minority, while in 1999-2000 the figure was 36 percent, said Dezmon. The system’s white population has been declining since 1995.
Noticing a need for mentoring and after-school help, nonprofits and faith groups have begun to tailor their youth programs to multicultural populations, said Haydee M. Rodriguez, executive director of the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs.
“The awareness is that not only are they the future, but the better prepared work force we have, the better off the community will be,” she said.