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Census shows average Maryland household size stabilized

HAGERSTOWN — Maryland’s growing immigrant population helped stabilize the state’s average household size after six decades of decline, according to census data released Thursday.

Rising numbers of relatively young immigrant families largely offset the effects of Maryland’s aging population on household size from 2000 to 2010, the numbers show. As people age, their households tend to shrink.

A contributing factor was the collapse of the housing market, which forced more people to live with others or move back in with their parents, said Mark Goldstein, a Maryland Department of Planning economist.

“Average household size has been declining since the 1940s, and this is the first decade since that time period where average household size did not decline statewide,” Goldstein said.

The numbers by the U.S. Census Bureau show an average Maryland household size of 2.61 people, unchanged from 2000.

The average Maryland family size rose slightly to 3.15 from 3.13.

During the same period, the median age of Maryland residents rose to 38 from 36 as the bulging “baby boom” population — those born from 1946 to 1964 — began reaching the Medicare-eligible age of 65.

Goldstein said that with no significant slowdown in the birth rate projected, taxpayers will likely see a steady demand over the next 30 years for public schools plus increased demand for government-funded services for the elderly such as Medicare and Medicaid.

“You’re going to have to take care of both ends of the age spectrum, both the school-age and the elderly population. And what that implies is greater potential fiscal strain on state and local governments,” he said.

Philip Joyce, a public budget and management expert at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, said budget fights will likely be decided in favor of elderly constituents over school children.

“They’re better organized, they tend to vote and just look what’s happening nationally with the response to the effort to change Medicare,” he said.

Nationally, the average household size slipped to 2.58 from 2.59 in the last decade, census numbers show. The average U.S. family size was unchanged at 3.14.