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Census paints Md.’s future a Hispanic hue

White population aging, having fewer children

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The face of Maryland's future will be vastly more colorful than its present, with nine of the state's 24 jurisdictions already majority-minority among young children, detailed 2010 census figures released Thursday show.

The numbers paint a portrait of a state in which a shrinking population of whites pushing well past middle age gives way to Hispanics with larger families, while their offspring eschew marriage in favor of a prolonged single life. For both new groups, homeownership is, for now, comparatively out of the picture.

While non-Hispanic whites make up 8 in 10 of Maryland's oldest residents and 55 percent of the overall population, the figures show they make up less than 43 percent of those younger than 5. The youngsters who will inherit the communities in which they grow up make a decided majority out of racial and ethnic minorities in Washington's northern suburbs, and the differences between the state's youngest residents and their parents' generation is enough to make a Caucasian kindergartner the exception even in Maryland's quiet outposts such as tiny Dorchester County.

The diverse children, however, are accompanied by a marked atrophy of the family unit. According to the figures, the number of households containing very young children being raised by non-relatives increased by 55 percent. Those with young children being raised by relatives other than parents increased 40 percent.

In Montgomery County, which shed 40,000 whites and added the most Hispanics in the state, compared with the prior census in 2000, non-Hispanic whites make up 36 percent of the population younger than 5. The 2010 census showed that the overall white population of Montgomery County inched just below the 50 percent mark for the first time.

In Prince George's County, the white population among the youngest children is half that of its general population, at 7 percent, and a quarter of its youngest residents are Hispanic — nearly twice that of their parents' generation. There are one-third fewer whites in the nation's wealthiest majority-black county compared with 10 years ago.

In Baltimore, 18 percent of the children younger than 5 are white, versus 28 percent overall. Baltimore's historic black culture gave way in spots to new ethnic enclaves, such as about 5,500 Salvadorans, where virtually none lived a decade ago.

The most significant ethnic disparities between current residents and the youngsters who will inherit the communities occurred in Dorchester and Wicomico counties, two tiny Eastern Shore locales with a two-thirds white population that narrows to a minority among youngsters.

Accompanying the racial changes were paradigm shifts in the way people live.

Different cultural worldviews of two groups of younger adults — those raised by the older generation of Marylanders who make up the bulk of homeowners and recent immigrants and other minorities — seemed to combine with universally hard economic times to produce divergent outcomes.

There were 22,000 fewer instances of the traditional American family — a husband and wife with children in the home — than there were 10 years ago in Maryland.

In addition to the cresting of the baby-boomer wave, the fundamental shift appears to result from a decision to postpone family life on the part of many whites, and a growing comfort with nontraditional families among all groups.

A particularly large drop of 12,000 in the number of children 6 to 11 being raised by their parents in Prince George's is an example of both.

While some made the decision not to start families owing to economic insecurity, others dealt with the pressures of a growing family in one of the nation's most expensive housing markets by crowding into rental housing.

The number of households with seven or more people increased by half statewide, the 2010 figures show, rising by 14,000, 40 percent of which rented their homes. Many live with extended relatives, and many more are families who have taken on boarders to help pay rent.

But even traditional families, for whom homeownership in previous years was a virtual rite of passage, are finding themselves renting housing. In the wealthy bedroom community of Howard County, the number of people in rental housing rose 23 percent.

The number of non-Hispanic whites in Maryland declined 4 percent over the past decade, but even if that population loss ceases, the state's makeup will grow continuously more Hispanic, according to the figures. The average Hispanic family was four people, compared with three for non-Hispanic whites and 3.3 for blacks.

Even as Maryland's older generation watches the state transform to an extent many could not have imagined, the living patterns of its younger residents are oftentimes in their own backyards.

The 60-plus crowd with a stranglehold on Maryland's housing supply is in numbers not before seen, also housing their children and raising their grandchildren.

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