Baltimore’s Changing Demographics: Not What You Might Think

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Looked at broadly, Baltimore’s recent history is one of dwindling population; the city has lost more than 20 percent of its residents since 1980.  But as anyone who actually lives here knows, that statistic masks a much more complicated reality.

As part of their program, students in the Master of Public Policy program at Johns Hopkins’s Institute for Policy Studies have peeked below the surface and found some interesting facts about race, ethnicity, and geography in our city. For one, the racial makeup of the city has changed. In 1980, the majority of Baltimore neighborhoods (54 percent) were predominantly white; by 2000, only 28 percent were. But, as the students’ research found, it’s hardly just a story of black and white residents.  “We were intrigued by the prospect that our traditionally black and white city was also becoming more ethnically diverse, and all that might imply,” said Sandra Newman, the professor who taught the course. And so the students looked for evidence of “integration among ethnically diverse residents both geographically and socially, and whether Hispanics and Asians are acting as ‘buffers’ between blacks and whites.” Some interesting neighborhood-based findings below:


  • Despite the net loss in population size, many neighborhoods have grown since 1980. A few notable ones:  Fells Point, Belair-Edison, Cross Country, Cheswolde, Coldspring, Falstaff, Sharp-Leadenhall, Otterbein, Loyola/Notre Dame and Roland Park.
  • Many neighborhoods saw a sharp decrease in white residents coupled with an increase in black residents. However, particular neighborhoods also saw sharp rises in other ethnic groups, including Hispanics (Upper Fells Point) and Asians (Tuscany-Canterbury and Roland Park).
  • Reversing the city’s trend, Otterbein more than doubled in size from 1980 to 2010.
  • Cheswolde, located in northwest Baltimore between Mount Washington and Fallstaff, has had a stable racial balance over the past 30 years — the neighborhood consistently hovers around 70 percent white and 30 percent black. Unusual for the city, there appear to be no spatially segregated racial enclaves. Does this mean that class matters more than race?
  • When the ethnic or racial makeup of a neighborhood changes, other changes — decline in median home prices and educational attainment — sometimes follow. Or that’s the traditional wisdom, at least. In many neighborhoods around town, including Coldspring, Northern Frankford, Cedmont, Loyola/Notre Dame and Cross Country, this was not the case.

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  1. I got to tell you, just spent three day week end in BALTIMORE for family wedding and was VERY IMPRESSED. Hotels, restaurants and reception venue FIRST RATE. Interesting traditional architecture . Nice urban vistas. Federal Hill was great, as was whole central/harbor area. BALTIMORE deserves MUCH MORE positive media attention than it gets (you know, NYC hogs everything) Truly IS Charm City!

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