The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Study: Montgomery County has grown older, more diverse and pricier

Maryland planners analyzed demographic, economic changes since 1990 to help guide growth.

Planners say Montgomery County has grown far more diverse in the past 30 years. In 1990, people of color comprised 28 percent of the population, compared with 56 percent today. Predominantly white areas are in shades of blue. Compare it with the map of 1990 below, which shows far more blue. (Montgomery Planning (M-NCPPC))
Placeholder while article actions load

Montgomery County planners who studied how the Washington suburb has changed since 1990 say its residents have grown older and far more diverse, and have faced soaring home prices even as their incomes stagnated.

People of color now make up 56 percent of the population, compared with 28 percent in 1990, according to the Montgomery planning department’s trends report released Thursday. Today, 33 percent of residents are foreign-born, compared with 19 percent in 1990.

The county’s transformation from predominantly white to one that is more racially and ethnically diverse was one of the most striking findings of the Montgomery planning department’s study of demographic, economic and other trends. Montgomery officials will use the data this spring, when they update the county’s General Plan for the first time since 1993. The plan, first written in 1964, will guide how the county of 1 million people grows over the next 20 to 30 years.

“The data will help set the direction of the General Plan update as we collaborate with community residents to shape the future of their county,” planning director Gwen Wright said.

The information will help planners reach out to different demographic groups and shape the plan’s goals, such as offering housing at a range of price points, planners said.

Study: Montgomery County economy is stagnant, and leaders are ignoring job creation

Here are more trends that planners highlighted:

— Overall, Montgomery residents have grown older. Aging baby boomers have raised the county’s median age from 33.9 years old in 1990 to 39 years old in 2016. About one in seven residents is 65 or older.

— Fewer of those younger than 35 are choosing to buy a home or can afford to. In 1990, 45 percent of residents in that age group owned their home. By 2016, it was 28 percent. Planners say reasons that might explain the dramatic drop include millennials having children later, shouldering more student debt or having fewer affordable homes from which to choose.

Cities turn to "missing middle" housing to keep older millennials from leaving

— That might be because housing is so expensive. The average price of a single-family detached home is $675,594. Prices have ballooned nearly 40 percent since 1997, even after adjusting for inflation.

— Meanwhile, more residents of all ages are renting, increasing from 32.1 percent of households in 1990 to 35.3 percent in 2016.

— Overall, wages have stagnated. When adjusted for inflation, today’s median household income of $99,763 is about the same as it was in 1989.

The full report can be viewed here.