Minorities are majority population in Montgomery County

Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 10, 2011; 12:00 AM

Minorities have become a majority over the past decade in affluent Montgomery County as the number of whites has plummeted, according to census figures released Wednesday.

In Montgomery and Prince George's counties, whites were largely replaced by Hispanics, a Washington Post analysis of the detailed census statistics shows. Hispanics outnumber blacks in Montgomery and just edge past whites in Prince George's County.

Barely 49 percent of Montgomery's 972,000 residents are non-Hispanic whites, down from almost 60 percent in 2000 and 72 percent a decade before that. Hispanics rose by two-thirds and make up about 17 percent of the county's population.

The census figures surprised some residents but reinforced what's readily evident.

"Wow. That's incredible," said Montgomery County Council member Nancy Navarro (D-Eastern County), who immigrated to the United States from Venezuela when she was in the fifth grade. "This changes the image of Montgomery County as just a wealthy, mostly Caucasian county.

"A lot of us know intuitively what happened, but it's different when you have it in real numbers," she added. "We have to recognize what the Montgomery County of today looks like."

The major demographic shifts mirror changes underway throughout much of the region and state.

As recently as 1990, seven out of 10 Maryland residents were white. Now, they are barely a majority, at 55 percent of the population. For the first time, a majority of the state's children younger than 18 are minorities, an important harbinger of growth as those children come of age.

Although the rate of growth in Montgomery and Prince George's slowed over the past decade, it continued to outpace that of the Baltimore suburbs. As a result, the two counties remain home to one in three of the state's residents, making the voter-rich area vital at election time. In contrast, the state's traditional political powerhouse - Baltimore City - continues to lose ground, although at slower clip than during the 1990s.

Baltimore was the only jurisdiction in Maryland to lose population, and it is likely to drop from six seats to five seats in the state Senate when districts are redrawn using the new census statistics. Montgomery will maintain eight seats, and Prince George's will keep at least seven, analysts said.

The tilt could help politicians from Washington's Maryland suburbs more easily ascend to statewide office.

The three Democrats most often rumored to run for governor in 2014 - Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Comptroller Peter Franchot - are from the Washington region.

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