Soaring minority population propels Montgomery County's expansion

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 9, 2011; 10:52 PM

Montgomery's soaring minority population has propelled the county's expansion over the past decade. But the march toward becoming a majority-minority county has been as varied as Montgomery itself.

The pace of change has been torrid in some areas, especially outside the Capital Beltway. In 2000, Germantown's white population stood at more than 57 percent. By last year, it had dropped to a little more than one-third. The picture was similar in Montgomery Village.

Bethesda, meanwhile, saw only a modest increase in its proportion of minority residents. Whites made up 78 percent of the population last year, down slightly from the 2000 level.

In Silver Spring, the proportion of minorities stayed about the same, the census reported.

Although the newest figures don't show people's national origins, much of Montgomery's growth has been driven by an influx of immigrants. Many of them were drawn to upcounty areas such as Germantown, with lots of new or affordable housing, county demographers said.

"Housing passes along to different folks as areas evolve," said Rollin Stanley, Montgomery's director of planning. "In a place like Germantown, you're seeing people move into new neighborhoods, taking new jobs, and other people moving in behind them."

Each wave of immigrants chooses to live where it can find housing, often where other immigrants have come before, Stanley said. "You move to what you can afford and what you know," he said.

Royce Hanson, former chairman of Montgomery's Planning Board, said the county's newcomers are following a national pattern: "Since the '80s in particular, immigrants have been moving to the suburbs rather than central cities."

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