Montgomery County’s diversity is often lauded as one of its strengths. But data from the U.S. Census also shows disparities between different races and ethnicities.
County planning officials—consisting of Acting Planning Board Chair Jeff Zyontz, Acting Planning Director Tanya Stern, and Caroline McCarthy, chief of the department’s research and strategic projects division—briefed the County Council on demographic trends during its meeting Tuesday.
One of the most high-level items showed that the county, according to U.S. Census data from 2021, is becoming increasingly diverse. In 1960, 96.1% of residents were white. By 2021, 40.6% of the population was white—meaning a majority of residents are people of color.
“This is not the same county I grew up in, and it’s certainly not the same county my parents grew up in,” Council Vice President Andrew Friedson (D-Dist. 1) said following the presentation.
One of the disparity data points is income levels, McCarthy told council members on Tuesday. In 2021, the area median income in the county was $112,854.
But the data differs among the race and ethnicity of those surveyed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For white households, median income is $142,695. For Asian households, it is $123,183. But for Hispanic and Black households, it is $86,302 and $83,194, respectively.
For the County Council, that data point becomes more important when you consider that diversity is spread out among the seven council districts, officials said. The only district where a majority of residents are white is District 1 (Bethesda, Potomac, Chevy Chase), where 68.7% are white, according to U.S. Census data.
Education level also varies by race, according to the data. Seventy-six percent of white residents have a bachelor’s or advanced degree, above the county average of 61%. Black or African-American residents and Hispanic residents are at 47% and 28%, respectively.
Despite this, Friedson said the topic of overall education level of residents—higher than many other jurisdictions in the country—is often lost when discussing the data. It’s a valuable asset as county leaders try to address various issues, he added.
Multiple County Council members said they wanted to discuss the Planning Department’s work further with planning staff, in order to better inform their decisions on legislation and policies ranging from health disparities to affordable housing.