Fascinating Report on Montgomery County Demographic and Economic Trends

Now, I’m not usually one who dives deep into numbers … or even someone who wades in the shallow end of numbers. But the just released report from Montgomery Planning entitled Montgomery County Trends A Look at People, Housing and Jobs Since 1990 is an utterly fascinating look at the people and economy of Montgomery County.

I highly recommend you grab a cup of coffee and peruse this report (the maps alone are worth it) but if you don’t have the time, here are some highlights:

Population

Montgomery County’s population grew 38 percent from 765,476 to 1,058,810 people between 1990 and 2017. This growth was driven primarily by births to residents and increasing international migration.

The county has grown increasingly diverse with people of color comprising more than 56 percent of the total population in 2016. Thirty-three percent of the population in 2016 versus 19 percent in 1990 are foreign-born. The proportion of foreign-born residents is the highest in the region. By 2045, the proportion of people of color in the county is expected to be 73 percent.

Fifty-nine percent of county residents hold at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 50 percent regionally.

Over the decades, Montgomery County shifted from predominately married-couples-with-children households to a broader mix of household types including single parent, couples with no children under 18, singles, and unrelated cohabitation.

The age 65-plus population is expected to double from 120,000 in 2010 to 244,000 by 2040, increasing from 12 percent to 21 percent of the total population. The county’s aging population may assert downward pressure on household incomes.

A median household income of just under $100,000 in 2016 places Montgomery County 17th among counties across the nation and ranks 5th in the Washington, D.C. area. Median household income, stagnant since 2010, has not recovered from the 2007 to 2009 recession, and remains below its adjusted 1999 median at $103,143.

Housing

The number of housing units in Montgomery County increased by 32 percent from 295,723 to 390,563 units between 1990 and 2016. This figure is lower than the 50 percent increase in housing supply in the Washington, D.C. region over the same period. Most of this growth took place in the 1990s and 2000s, with average annual growth rates exceeding 1 percent. In contrast, the average annual growth rate was only 0.7 percent from 2010 to 2016.

The home ownership rate among households under age 35 declined dramatically from 45 percent in 1990 to 28 percent in 2016. Only one age cohort – households aged 75 and older experienced an increase in homeownership rates during this period, going from 65 percent to 74 percent.

The number of renters grew significantly as a result of the changing mix of housing units and household types in Montgomery County. In 1990, only 32.1 percent of households (90,595) were renters. By 2016, this figure increased to 35.3 percent of households (131,791 renter households.)

Demand for owner-occupied units continues to strongly favor detached homes as well as homes that are closer to the urban ring, walkable to community amenities, and homes with strong transportation connectivity.

The percentage of households in the county that are spending at least 35 percent of their income on housing costs has continued to grow since 1990, with growth particularly acute among renters. Forty percent of renters and 40% of households making the median income are spending more than a third of their income on housing.

Employment

Two industries—education, health and social services, and professional, scientific and management services—employed the largest number of residents in both 1990 and 2016. Their combined share as a percentage of overall employment increased from 33 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2016. In contrast, the percentage of residents employed by the federal government declined from 15 to 13 percent, although the number of federal workers grew slightly from 65,506 in 1990 to 73,587 in 2016.

The private sector accounts for around 81 percent of total jobs located in Montgomery County.

About three-fifths of county workers also live in the county, up slightly from 1990, with 65 percent driving to work in a personal vehicle. Carpooling decreased from 13 percent to 9 percent while about 6 percent of people walk, use public transportation or bike to work.

The Today Show asks, “Is America seeing ‘The End of The Suburbs’?”

Last week the Today Show featured a book by Leigh Gallagher titled The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving. In her book Gallagher points to a number of social and economic trends that contribute to the increasing preference for an urban lifestyle including the rise of energy prices, an increasing awareness of environmental issues, lengthy commutes, and a preference for a livelier neighborhood with a sense of community.

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Check out this short clip from the Today Show for an interesting look at various people choosing cities over suburbs, including a family with two children who chose to live in a two bedroom apartment in downtown Boston. Interestingly, the Today Show does not ignore the increasingly blurry lines between suburban and urban; the end of this clip features a Kentlands-esque “suburban-urban street development” outside of Chicago.

Despite her book’s title, Gallagher notes that the suburbs aren’t simply going to disappear: “when I talk about the ‘end of the suburbs,’ I do not mean to suggest that all suburban communities are going to vaporize. Plenty of older suburbs are going strong… and many newer suburbs are reinventing themselves to adapt to the times.”

The Washington Post also ran an interview with Gallagher this weekend offering more insight into her book.  When asked how a suburb could reinvent itself, she said it should strive to be “a place people want to walk around. Organic, village-type environments that are how the suburbs started to begin with. Public transit also. People want out of their cars, especially millennials.”