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ROCKVILLE — Residents in Montgomery County are more diverse, better educated and working more than they did nearly 30 years ago, according to a recently released report by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
The report, titled “Montgomery County Trends: A Look at People, Housing and Jobs since 1990,” described percentage increases in multiple fields. The results of this report will be used to shape the long-term future of the county’s vision and growth policies.
“This report is so important because it highlights today’s social, demographic and economic trends that will help us plan for Montgomery County’s tomorrow,” said Planning Director Gwen Wright. “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.”
The results of the report will be used to update the General Plan for the Maryland-Washington Regional District in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, also known as the Wedges and Corridors Plan. A press release from the Montgomery County Planning Department states that the “technological, social, environmental and economic changes” in the county have led to the “pressing need to refresh” the plans for the county.
Montgomery County has grown 38 percent since 1990; over the course of 27 years, the county expanded from 765,476 to more than one million in 2017. What’s more, that number is expected to increase to more than 1.2 million in 2045.
This continuous escalation has resulted in a county that is better educated and employed, largely fueled by an upturn in immigration and people of color.
People of color account for more than half of the population in Montgomery County, and 33 percent of the county’s residents are from another country. Both of these figures are drastic increases from 1990 with the number of people of color doubling in that span and foreign-born residents rising from just 19 percent.
According to the report, these changes are most prevalent in the northern portion of the county around and past Germantown. Non-Hispanic black, Asian and Hispanic populations in this region reported changes of 1,500 or more residents.
In terms of education, 59 percent of the county’s population 25 years or older have at least a bachelor’s degree — nearly twice as high as the national average. People with a high school education decreased from 41 to 33 percent, but the number of people with graduate or professional education jumped nine percentage points to 32 percent.
Research and Special Projects Chief Caroline McCarthy called Montgomery County a “bellwether for trends in the country” in terms of demographic changes.
“Montgomery County today is different from the Montgomery County of 1990 in some dramatic and subtle ways,” he said. “Our population is older and much more diverse.”
The population increase resulted in 31 percent more people in the labor force than in 1990. Jobs in the county have increased as well, but not as rapidly at 21 percent. The report puts Montgomery County second in the region behind Fairfax County.
Industry sectors like education, social services and managements services are still the largest employed field as they were in 1990. But the largest increases by far are in healthcare and social assistance, growing by 111 percent in a 25-year span.
But the number of female workers in the labor force has steadily decreased over time. There were nearly 68 percent of female residents working in 1990; that number has dipped to just over 65 percent in 2016.
Still, the overall report is encouraging to McCarthy and lay a foundation for the county’s future.
“As we prepare to update the General Plan, we asked the question of what has changed since the last refinement, so we can think about the future,” McCarthy said. “The employment base is growing even more concentrated in professional services and healthcare.”