Empty playground in Greektown
Greektown playground. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Baltimore is among the top ten cities in which family size is shrinking the most, according to a report by financial technology company SmartAsset.

Between 2019 and 2021, the average size of a family in Baltimore shrank from 3.34 people to 3.08 people, a decrease of 7.78%.

During that same period, median family income increased, rising to $68,178 per year, even though there was also an increase in the poverty rate.

“Baltimore family sizes shrank by 7.78% in two years. Almost one in three (28.6%) families here are below the poverty line, with an average size of 3.08 people. This is after a 5.5-point increase between 2019 and 2021. Meanwhile, the median family income went up to $68,178 in that time,” reads the report.

Baltimore Fishbowl spoke to Jaclyn DeJohn, Managing Editor of Economic Analysis for Smart Asset, about the details of the report and its implications.

While acknowledging that two to three years is a short time in terms of population trends, DeJohn said they wanted to analyze what changes might have been made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There were a lot of changes during COVID, and we wanted to analyze that. San Antonio, for example, changed a lot. Three cities were above 10%,” DeJohn said.

SmartAsset’s analysis showed San Antonio, Texas, with the largest drop in family size, decreasing from 3.83 people to 3.24 people in just two years — a change of 15.14%.

Baltimore came in fifth with its decrease in family size of 7.78%.

While the report’s authors sought to analyze changes that happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, DeJohn said the data isn’t able to show whether COVID-19 was the cause of those changes.

“We can’t be 100% certain that family size has decreased because of COVID. There were significant changes in these top ten cities,” DeJohn said.

“This report is more an evaluation of the effects of changes over COVID rather than the causes of the changes,” DeJohn added. “We didn’t perform the analysis to pinpoint the reason for the change in these demographics. It didn’t seem fair to address it in the article.”

Demographic changes, including family size, can affect many forward projects that government agencies make, DeJohn said.

“Government programs, subway systems, civic planning, food stamps, social security, are all based and projected on family numbers. It’s representative of population demographics changing. These numbers will affect long-term planning for what revenue might look like. They change projections for a lot of programs institutionally,” DeJohn explained.

Using the example of subway costs, she said they are based on how many people ride it in a single year. If suddenly there are fewer people riding it, costs and fares might have to go up in order to run that subway in a way it wouldn’t lose money and still be able to pay employees. A sharp decrease in family size in such a short period of time as two years will have an impact on daily costs like these for people getting to work.

All data used in the study is from the US Census Bureau. Smart Asset is not a financial advising firm, rather a firm that provides educational tools and matches people to financial advisors in their area with a proven record of successful financial planning. They do not provide individualized financial planning advice.

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