An influx of residents from other parts of the country drove Frederick County’s population growth from 2016 to 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 population estimates.

The 1.7 percent increase in residents — from 247,881 in 2016 to 252,022 in 2017, was the largest percentage increase among Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore city, according to the data published Thursday. It also represents the highest single-year increase Frederick County has experienced since the 2010 census.

But for local and state planners, the single-year growth spurt doesn’t hold much weight against the longer-term picture of growth. One person also questioned the accuracy of the census data, pointing to disparities between census numbers and other growth indicators for Baltimore city.

Census Bureau data provide estimates of populations of states, counties and metropolitan areas in between the decennial census surveys. The estimates are determined based on administrative records from a number of sources, including birth and death certificates provided through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, IRS tax returns, Medicare enrollment, American Community Survey information and military movement.

the numbers

That Frederick County’s population grew faster than those of other counties didn’t surprise Jim Gugel, the county’s planning director. The census estimates mirrored trends in the measurements used by the county planning department to track growth.

Specifically, Gugel pointed to the number of building permits approved for new residential units as support for recent population growth. About 1,800 permits were approved in 2016 and another 1,800 in 2017, the highest in county history since before the 2008 recession, Gugel said.

Based on the timing of the increase, Gugel suspected economic recovery was, in part, a factor in the county’s growth.

Jobs, services and cost of living are primary drivers for why people move to a certain place, according to Seema Iyer, an associate director and research assistant professor for the Jacob France Institute in the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business.

Iyer also studies demographics and population estimates as part of her work in Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance, a collaboration of service agencies, foundations and city government that studies Baltimore’s changing neighborhoods.

Frederick County’s location between D.C. and Baltimore makes it attractive to prospective new residents, Iyer said. That same logic could explain why neighboring Howard County saw significant population growth, claiming the No. 3 spot among Maryland counties in terms of percentage increase and numerical change, according to the data.

Migration accounted for more than half of the population change in Howard and Frederick counties — as opposed to the number of births and deaths, referred to as the “net increase.” And 73.98 percent of the 3,029 new residents who migrated to Frederick came from within the U.S. rather than international destinations, according to the data.

The context

Asked if the single-year data set influenced county planning decisions, Gugel said no.

“From a planning perspective, one year does not a single trend make,” he said.

Gugel instead named data over a longer term, since the 2010 census, for example, as more useful for planning.

The Maryland Department of Planning also favors larger data sets in its projections, according to Alfred Sundara, the department’s projections and data center director. That said, the latest population estimates align fairly well with the state’s latest population projections, which extend through 2040.

Despite his disregard for single-year estimates, Gugel also noted that if faster growth rates continue on a year-to-year basis, that could strain the county’s pipeline for new residential development.

Growth is good, but when it’s too fast, too soon, it becomes problematic, Iyer said. She named school crowding and higher housing costs — both of which Frederick has faced — as symptoms of a rapid population increase.

Baltimore city has experienced the opposite problem. Its population decreased by 5,310 residents from 2016 to 2017, according to the census estimates. Iyer questioned the accuracy of the census collection methods, which she felt did not accurately capture migration in more urban areas.

Other indicators of growth in Baltimore, such as the number of new houses and vacancy rates, do show such a dramatic decline in population, Iyer said. She added that census estimates for Baltimore city were “fraught with errors in the past.”

The latest estimates for Baltimore city amended its prior calculations for population loss in 2016, lowering it from nearly 6,700 to 6,000, according to an article published in The Baltimore Sun. Jewel Jordan, a census spokeswoman, referred to the online explanation for data collection when asked to comment on the possible inaccuracy in an email Friday.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @NancyKLavin.

How Frederick’s 2017 population estimate compares to other Maryland counties

•ranked out of 23 counties plus Baltimore city Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2017 population estimates

Location 2016 population 2017 population Change (number) Rank based on numerical change• Change (percent) Rank based on percent change•
Frederick County 247,881 252,022 4,141 4 1.7% 1
Howard County 316,966 321,113 4,147 3 1.3% 3
Montgomery County 1,048,332 1,058,810 10,478 1 1.0% 5
Washington County 149,810 150,578 768 10 .5% 10
Baltimore city 616,958 611,648 -5,310 24 -.9% 23

Nancy Lavin covers social services, demographics and religion for The Frederick News-Post.

(24) comments


[sad] Jim Gugel, the county’s planning director, was surprised?
Then he needs a new job or at least a car (to see the over growth)!!!
Where did he come from and what the heck!!!


The blatant racism exhibited in the comments today is astounding. I don't know why these bigoted people are afraid to say what they mean, so I'll say it for them. "If you ain't white and ignorant, don't come to Frederick City or County.


That's how I took those comments as well.

I'm hoping we can stay on topic here -- which is growth, sprawling development, and overpopulation destroying our quality of life.

We need to reduce and then reverse population growth from all sources -- whether it's more births than deaths among existing residents, or people* moving to FredCo from outside the county.

* People = all races: white, black, brown, yellow; all religions; all nationalities (American or foreign). It does not matter who they are or where they're from, FredCo is already severely overpopulated. More humans of any variety will only make things worse.


I was born in D.C. in 1940 and lived in Hyattsvile for the next 14 years. Our street was a dead end with a small horse farm at the end of it. We raised chickens in a sizable chicken house in the back yard. Subsequently, I lived in Montgomery County in Ashton and Silver Sping for 30 years and Columbia in Howard County for 22 years until we moved here in 2008. Everywhere we lived, P.G., MoCo, HoCo, and FC started out predominantly rural and ended predominantly suburban so I saw all of these Counties go through the painful transition of urban sprawl. Everyone in all of these Counties felt the same about their beloved County as you do about Frederick County. But you can't stop it, you can only manage it and Frederick County is going the same way as Montgomery County, unplanned willy nilly and ever changing zoning. Howard County did it differently. When Rouse snuck in in the sixties and secretly bought thousands of acres to build Columbia, the locals caught on and said "no more". They ran for County Council and developed a plan for growth for the next 30 years. They implemented the zoning and stuck to it. Every time developers tried to change the zoning the people came out to the zoning hearings by the hundreds armed with lawyers and planning experts and beat them down. Drive through Howard County today on the main roads and you won't see shopping centers and housing developments and industrial parks except on Route 1, which pre existed. So I'm asking all of you anti growth complainers, where were you 30 years ago, it's way to late now.


You said, "Everyone in all of these Counties felt the same about their beloved County as you do about Frederick County."

Everywhere across the country it's the same sad story -- existing residents do not want their town/county to be swallowed up by suburban sprawl -- yet the will of the majority is routinely ignored.

What do you think made Howard County different? One thing that comes to mind is a higher than average percentage of residents with advanced degrees and enough disposable income to hire those attorneys and experts you mentioned.

I'd say that while the destruction of FredCo we've seen is atrocious, it's never 'too late' to stop the growth that hasn't yet occurred.


The developers won, you lost.


Absolutely Lenny. Too bad that never seems to sink in.


The decline in Baltimore City can partially explain the increase in Carroll County (with Columbia being a common destination), and Frederick County (with Route 40 West, Discovery and Amber Meadows benefitting). Similarly with the PG-to-Charles County migration.


We're original owners in Amber Meadows (35 years) and only one home has been for sale on our street in years. And it happened this month. Not sure what you're inferring. We're affordable and diverse with low turnover and a great location? Yeah. Haven't met any recent Baltimore transplants um, ever, but wherever you land, welcome.


The blind and misguided amongst us love to celebrate this growth. In reality, though, all it means is more people, who increasingly have less in common. This population boom will result in more sprawl, congestion, traffic and CRIME. Also understand that Frederick County and City lack the resources to keep up with growth, which means roads and highways will not be widened, traffic lights will not be installed and schools will continue to be overcrowded, as test scores and morale decline.


How true kstr92, how very, very true. This kind of rise in the county's population will only spiral the county farther downward. Which is very, very sad, it used to be such a beautiful spot in the state. Now it's MoCo North, and it will do nothing but get worse. Much worse.


Great comment kstr92. I couldn't have said it better.

As population growth increases, quality of life decreases. That is not opinion, it is a hard cold fact that can be proven by looking at any number of indicators.

Contrary to what those who benefit from sprawl would have you believe, growth is NOT good. It is destroying Frederick County; Maryland; America; and the rest of the planet.


This is one rating Frederick county does not need............ Frederick county is being ruined with this growth thing.




“An influx of residents from other parts of the country drove Frederick County’s population growth...” CORRECTION: An influx of residents from other parts of the WORLD


What is your point?


Samanthapowers: Fnpzwack's point is probably that our County is changing in ways we neither asked for nor want. Not everyone is on board with the "diversity is our strength" mantra, which most of us know is nothing but a lie.


Don't use plural pronouns.


Dwasserba: Such as?


I understood Dwass to mean that you should own your opinions by using "my" instead of "our" and "I" instead of "we" and "us". She may have intended something else, of course. However, your comment appears to me to fall into the argumentum ad populum family of logical fallacies.

Your statement would be stronger if you didn't water it down with plural pronouns.


A lie that the libs are way too blind to comprehend.


According to the sidebar “Components of Frederick County’s population change”, it states “788 people came from international destinations”. Of course, it is just an estimate. But I don’t know that it meets the definition of “influx”.


The 788 foreigners quoted in the article are just the ones who are here legally. There's about another 318 who are illegal, or as the liberals like to say, undocumented dreamers.


This is very sad

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