31 October 2011

Prejudice Comes to New Town

I think it has been said a million times, but let’s begin with a quick review.  Columbia, Maryland was born with two basic premises:  First, a town that is planned from its outset would result in a better city.  Not a perfect Utopia, but a better place for people.  Second, Columbia welcomes people from all races, religions, ethnicities, and economic means.  Diversity is a strength within, and throughout, this community.

These foundation pillars were tested last week during a Zoning Pre-Submission Hearing conducted by the Howard Hughes Corporation.  As reported by Explore Howard and Columbia Patch, long time resident and Town Center Village Board member Joel Broida was quoted as follows:

"Putting in 817 units with rentals is like setting up a hotel," he said. "When you're a rental unit, you're transient. You do not become part of the neighborhood. Columbia is great, and I would hate to see it become a transient, hotel-like community."

Joel Broida, a Columbia resident since 1971, said he fears the bulk of 817 new residences could be rental homes.
Renters don't have the sense of investment in a community that homeowners have, Broida told Hughes officials.
"Renters don't have pride in the community," he said. "They aren't the ones to pick up that piece of paper someone dropped."

Sadly, the singling-out of people who live in apartments as undesirable was picked up, and expanded upon, by a few pseudonymoniuos commenters online.

It is rare that I ever hear someone that has lived most of their life in the Next American City voice such clear prejudice against any component of the community.  And to clarify just how sharp this derogatory language is, let us try and remove the economic status veneer from his statements:

"Putting in 817 units with rentals [religious group]s is like setting up a hotel," he said. "When you're a rental unit [religious group], you're transient. You do not become part of the neighborhood. Columbia is great, and I would hate to see it become a transient, hotel-like community."

"Renters [Ethnic group]s don't have pride in the community," he said. "They aren't the ones to pick up that piece of paper someone dropped."

I believe that Columbia must be open to all people.  That is a promise made at its founding and it is a promise that our generation must uphold.  To pursue a policy going forward that Columbia will only be open to people with the financial deep pockets to put 20% down on a mortgage and have high FICO scores will result in a fast track to gentrification.

I think it is imperative to state that folks that live in apartments are much like any other component in our community.  They are mothers and daughters, sons and fathers.  They are our co-workers, retired folks and veterans.  They are teachers and doctors, nurses and accountants.  They work for the government and private industry.  They are janitors and corporate executives.  They pay taxes and worship with us in faith.  They dine in the same restaurants, they vote in the same elections, and they attend Zoning Pre-Submission Meetings.  They should not be the subject of scorn based on the fears and hate of anyone, no matter how long he has lived in Columbia, no matter his position in the community.


26 October 2011

Generation Investigation

While exploring alternate methods to characterize the Howard County age demographic data, I came back to the paragraph in my earlier post that deals with rationalization of the young adult and senior populations.  Throughout that paragraph are theories ascribed not to age groups, but to generations that exist in those age groups at that time.

Taking this cue, I turned to the word of Neil Howe and William Strauss.  These two scholars led the field in generational theory.  I found useful their identification of birth years for current generations and the nomenclature ascribed to each generation.  According to Strauss and Howe, those generations present from 1970-2010 are as follows:

Because the Strauss and Howe generation definitions do not fall neatly into decennial increments, I had to slightly alter the generational definitions to allow for use with the Census dataset:

The next step was to apply these generational definitions to the Howard County Population age demographic data:

Collecting the data on a generational basis yields the following table and graph:

A quick note about the graph and table above.  With 2010 as the exception, U.S. Census data typically does not track discrete age groups beyond 85-years old.  Therefore, it is difficult to account for populations greater than  85.  I am aware that there are more than a few people in Howard County that are near or actual centigenerians, and I for one am happy to have them in our communities.  However, from a statistical standpoint, it is difficult to impossible to characterize their populations when constructing graphs in the 1000’s. 

Taking the Broad View

Initial analysis of the Howard County population by generation chart shows some similarities to the previously discussed Howard County population by age group chart.  In 1970 the generations were closely grouped (relatively speaking).  In the year 2000, three population constituents (this time boomers, gen-x’s, and millennials) had almost identical population numbers.  In 1970 a similar convergence is also present in the Population by Generation chart.  In this year, the GI, Silent and Gen-X constituents each represented approximately 20% of the total county population.  It is interesting that a similar convergence is not present in the Population by Age Group Chart.

But what is truly remarkable about this chart is how it is different from the age group chart.  Recall in the age group chart that the middle aged and senior population constituents have experienced rapid positive growth over the last twenty years, while the youth and young adult growth was shown to be slower.  In the generation chart, the roles are reversed.  The Lost generation, born between the years 1883-1900 had long since peaked.  The GI (1980), Silent (1990) and Boom (2000) generations have all shown a population peak and are in decline.  Conversely, the Gen-X (13’rs to my friends in the know), Millennial, and Homeland generations have experienced positive upward growth.

The GI Generation (born approx 1901-1925)

In 1970, the 12,238 members of the GI Generation were between the ages of 45-69 and represented almost 20% of the county population.  In 1980, the GI Generation (age 55-69) population peaked (13,029) as they began to dominate the Senior age group.  Although this generation increased in population, their percentage of the total population dramatically decreased from 19.77% to 10.99% due to much faster growth of other generation populations. 

Since 1980, the GI Generation has steadily declined in a concave-down characteristic.  Today, the GI Generation (age 85-109) dominates the Meta-Senior age group and currently number 3,152 persons.

Silent Generation (born approx 1926-1940)

In 1970 the Silent Generation, age 30-44, occupy the upper portion of the Young Adult age group and are just beginning to populate the Middle Aged age group.  At 13,841 persons, they are second only to the Boomers in size and represent 22.36% of the population.  The Silent Generation increases its size by 50% over its 1970 population and grows to a size of 20,830 persons by 1980. 

By 1990, the Silent Generation peaks at 21,443 persons and with an age range of 50-64, occupy the upper Middle Aged age group, with the eldest component of the generation entering the Senior age group.  Since 1990, the Silent Generation population in Howard County has progressively declined as these members move into the Senior age group.  Currently, the Silent Generation in Howard County is 15,123 persons strong and constitute 5.27% of the total population.

Boom Generation (born approx 1941-1960)
The Boom Generation is one of three generations that has come to dominate many aspects of life in Howard County.  By 1970, Boomers were between 10-29 years old.  At a size of 20,693, Boomers represented 33.42% of the total county population.  From the period 1970-1990, the Boomer population grew with a near-linear characteristic (22,976 persons added 1970-1980 and 25,575 persons added 1980-1990) and over the twenty-year period grew faster than any other generation constituent.  However, from the period 1970-2010, the Boomers have not had the fastest growth in any one particular decade.

In 1990, the Boomers were near their peak of influence in Howard County.  Numbering 69,244 and ranging in age from 30-49, Boomers straddled the Young Adult/Middle Aged demarcation line and constituted 36.96% of the total Howard County population.  This is the largest percentage of total population for any generation during the study period.

After 1990, Boomer population increased at a much slower pace and peaked in 2000 at 74,478 persons.  Although this represents the zenith of Boomer population, it came with a 6% drop in percentage share of the total population due to the dynamic positive growth of younger generations.  From 2000-2010, the Boomer population showed a population decline for the first time and a second 6% drop in total population percentage share.  Today 1-in-4 Howard County residents is a Boomer.

Generation-X (born approx 1961-1980)
Gen-X provides a unique condition in that it is the only generation studied that the population is known in 1960.  By 1970, the Gen-X’rs had increased from 0 to 13,023 persons.  As stated above, Gen-X’rs (13,023), Silent (13,841), and GI (12,238) Generations all had nearly identical populations in 1970.  During the 1970’s the Gen-X population growth was the fastest rate for the 1970’s and by the end of the decade the Gen-X population more than triples.  Also of note is that by 1980 the Gen-X’rs solely occupy the Youth age group.

In 1980 1-in-3 Howard County residents is a Gen-X’r and the Gen-X’rs almost match the population of the Boom Generation (40,015 v. 43,669).  Also of note is that the Gen-X population in 1980 was larger than the Howard County Lost, GI and Silent generations combined. 

After 1980, Gen-X grows at a slower but near constant rate for the next three decades.  From 1980-1990, Gen-X adds 16,034 people.  In 2000, Gen-X owns the Young Adult age group and has added another 16,624 to achieve a generation population of 72,673 people.  Between 2000 and 2010, Gen-X’rs begin to enter middle age and add 13,996 people despite soaring home prices and the economic downturn.  In 2010 there were 86,669 Gen-X’rs living in Howard County.

Millennials (born approx 1980-2010)
The Millennials appear ten years into the study period.  During their first decade in existence, the Millennials quickly become recognizable generation, ending the 1980’s with 29,262 persons.  Compare this number with the size of Gen-X in 1970 (ten years after Gen-X began) – 13,023.  In fact, the Millennial population growth rate was the fastest growth rate during the 1980’s; faster than the Gen-X’rs, faster than the Boomers.  To be fair, there were a lot more households in Howard County during the 1980’s than in the 1960’s.

By the year 2000, the Millennials have more than doubled to 74,085 persons and now constitute 29.89% of the total Howard County population.  As noted above, in the year 2000, the Boomers (74,478), Gen-X’rs (72,673) and Millennials (74,085) all had nearly identical populations.  During the ‘00’s, the Millennials grew very slowly and added 1,174 people to the total Howard County population.  In 2010, there were 75,259 Millennials in Howard County.

Homelands (born approx 2001-Present Day)
The Homelands have been with us for only a short time.  Next year, the 1st Homelands will enter middle school.  Let’s hope a better name is given to this generation by then.  From a population standpoint, in just one decade, the Homelands have arrived in much the same manner as the Gen-X’rs, and the Millennials.  What is interesting about the Homelands is that after their first decade on earth (and Howard County) increased in population to 37,920.

Intermediate Conclusion

So what does all this mean?  First, recall the Population by Age Group chart discussed in a prior blog post.

Compare the above chart with the chart that we have been discussing here. 
The reason these two charts depict the same data differently is because they track the data differently over time.  The Population by Age Group chart provides a set of signposts through time.  It is a gatekeeper function.  Said another way, it answers the question, “How many of a certain age have passed through at this time?”  The Population by Age Group chart does an adequate job of “what” but provides little else.

With respect to the Population by Generation chart, the data is grouped by generation and then the generations are tracked over time.  This provides the data in a different light.  If the Population by Age Group chart provided a magnitude, the Population by Generation chart provides the direction.

Taken together, what these two graphs do is generate a lot of intriguing questions.  For example, why is the “Young Adult” curve on the Age Group chart almost identical to the “Boomer” curve on the Generations chart, even though the Boomers were completely in the Middle Aged group by 2000?  Why does the Age Group chart show the Senior and Meta-Senior curves increasing while the Generation chart shows the GI, Silent and Boomer Curves all decreasing? 

In our next installment, we will take a look at some of these questions, and we will talk about housing units too.  Stay tuned.


24 October 2011

Who are we and how did we get here?

The time immediately after the decennial census is filled with wonder and renewed uncertainty. One of the prime objectives of the census is redistricting, and the various maps generated at different levels of government have occupied many a blog post here in Howard County.  One other byproduct of the Census is it helps us gain a greater understanding of our larger community.  It can be used as a type of ruler, marking data at discrete times to show trends.  It can also be used as a mirror, reflecting the various characteristics that make up the community.

It is in this spirit that I have been doing some digging.  The U.S. Census Bureau released a trove of local 2010 Census data last August.  Given the data found at the Bureau, I went on to the Maryland Department of Planning to compliment the data released in August.  What follows here is my attempt at reconciling how Howard County has evolved since 1970.

Area of Agreement

The graph above shows Howard County total population from 1970 – 2010.  Clearly, we have a lot more people here than we did in 1970.  As far as the characteristic of the line, it is a near linear positive upward curve with an approximate slope of 5800.  That is, averaged over the last forty years, Howard County has added approximately 5800 people per year.

Constituent Populations – How do you slice a pie that keeps getting bigger?

Where things get somewhat sticky is how the age-related Census data is broken down.  Although completely anecdotal, I have heard at more-than-a-few public meetings various iterations of “Howard County is Aging Rapidly” (“there are as many residents over 65 as there are children in Howard County,” “sixty is the new forty,” among others).  Conversely, as a parent of a school-age child (and one younger), I tend to keep an eye on school capacity, and those numbers are not declining.  The reality is that all age groups have seen a dramatic increase over the last forty years.

Therefore, having no clear guidance on grouping of ages, I have (admittedly arbitrarily, but with a bent toward evenhandedness) collected Howard County population age groups by twenty-year increments (0-19, 20-39, 40-59, 60-79, and 80+).  In addition, I also ascribed loose labels to each age group (youth, young adult, middle aged, senior, and meta-senior).  Although the individual reader may take exception to the referenced labels contained herein, please keep in mind that these are the best I could come up with, and I am more than willing to entertain alternate naming standards.

The grouping of the Howard County population constituent age groups are depicted below both graphically and in tabular form.

Description by Decade

In 1970, the youth component is the dominant constituent in Howard County.  Over 4 out of 10 Howard County residents is under the age of twenty.  Young adults and the middle aged combine to make up half the county population and the seniors and meta-seniors collectively represent 8% of the county.

During the 1970’s all Howard County age groups see population increases.  By 1980, the youth age group is overtaken by the young adults.  The youth percentage share has decreased from 1-in-4 to 1-in-3 and the young adult constituent alone makes up nearly 37% of the population.  Meanwhile, the middle aged, senior, and meta-senior constituents all more than double in size, but maintain hold their percentage of population (within 1%) of 28%, 7% and 1% respectively.

By the end of the 1980’s most of Columbia was built out and areas in western Ellicott City were seeing dramatic development (Turf Valley, Centennial Lane area, etc).  Youth population grows at almost the same pace as during the 1970’s; however, the young adult constituent maintains its growth pace (at twice the growth rate of the youth constituent), and the middle aged population growth rate accelerates.  So by 1990, the youth dominance retreats to about 28% of the total population, the young adult constituent gains a percentage point (now 37% of the total population) and the middle aged surge to now represent 1-in-4 people.  Seniors almost double in population and meta-seniors also double, maintaining their 7% and 1% shares of the population, respectively.

In the 1990’s, growth expands along MD-103 and Montgomery Road corridors.  River Hill development is underway.  Waverly blossoms to the north.  Middle aged growth rate (avg=2673 persons/year) bests the middle aged growth rate from the 1980’s (avg=2,230 persons/year).  Youth population increases at a faster rate during the 1990’s than the previous two decades, while young adult population growth rate slows to a trickle, adding 2,401 persons for the entire decade.

The behavior of these three population constituents during the 1990’s culminated in the great Howard County population confluence.  In the year 2000, according to the United States Census Bureau, the youth (74,085), young adult (72,673) and middle aged (74,478) population constituents all were within 1.5% of each other.

Also during the 1990’s, the Howard County senior population fell off the “doubling every decade” curve, but did add more persons during the decade (7,551) than during the 1980’s (6,079) and as a result increase their percent share of total Howard County population from just under 8% to 9%.  Meta-seniors continue to double their population during the decade and stand 4,570 strong.

In the ‘00’s Maple Lawn is in full swing.  Senior housing becomes an industry in Howard County.  Infill development comes to the county.  During the 1st half of the decade, real property values (and corresponding housing prices) soar.  By the end of the decade, a “correction” is underway.  From the population convergence, the youth and middle aged population constituents continued to increase in size, although at a slower rate.  The young adult population posted a slight negative growth, started the decade at 72,673 and ending at 69,804.  The senior population increases significantly, from 22,036 to 38,032.  This represents the 2nd largest growth for the decade (middle age increase was larger).  Seniors now represent 13% of the Howard County population.  Meta-seniors also increase in size to 6,606 persons.

Initial Conclusion

For all the numbers over the decades, the key question here is what does it all mean?  For the most part, the youth, middle aged, and meta-senior constituents have near-linear growth characteristics (although at different slopes) during the last forty years.  With respect to young adults and seniors, both constituents demonstrate linear behavior over the first twenty years.  After 1990, the young adult constituent growth is characterized by a concave down curve, while the senior population constituent is concave up.

The rationale behind the young adult and senior constituent behavior is less than clear.  As far as I know, only speculative theories and hypotheses exist.  It is a certainty that the construction of age restricted (55+) housing escalated with the introduction of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) in the early 1990’s and has progressed over the last twenty years.  The shear bulk of the aging boomer generation also plays a part.  Another popular theory is that the younger generations consciously choose the urban setting of the big cities in the region and hold low regard for the single family lots and cul-de-sacs that dominate much of Howard County’s housing stock.  Lastly the economic booms and busts over the last two decades must be taken into consideration with respect to both seniors choosing to “age in place” and available housing options (and the ability to secure financing for said housing) for young adults.

As depicted in the graphs above, the Howard County age demographic trends are fairly clear and provide a basis for further analysis; however, the data is missing an important aspect.  This aspect is imbedded in the evolution of norms over time and the changing characteristics that accompany youth, mid-age and retirement.  Much as it is difficult to discern how well Sandy Koufax would pitch against Albert Pujols or Red Auerbach’s nine NBA coaching championships to Phil Jackson’s eleven NBA coaching championships; the young adults of the 1970’s were in many ways different than the young adults of today.  As they say in the world of sports – “they are of different eras,” and that aspect cannot be conveyed by simple classification of age groups.  Indeed, age groups serve as static markers that are scalar by nature.  They depict a magnitude, but provide no indication of direction.

In the near future, I will provide an alternative analysis of Howard County population growth over the last forty years.  Stay tuned.