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From the Editor: Who are we, anyway?

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Posted on: March 10, 2012

paula minaert executive editor HL&T mugBY PAULA MINAERT — I often walk around the city. I don’t cover all of its 2.67 square miles but I’ve been to a large portion of it. And I’ve noticed, as I think most of us have, that Hyattsville has changed over the years. I decided to look at the 2010 census recently to see what I could learn from it and if my off-the-cuff observations were accurate. It was a fascinating exercise.

We do have more people living here, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Since 2000, the city’s population has grown from almost 15,000 to more than 17,000: a 19 percent increase. You can attribute it to, among other things, new construction along Route 1 and annexation.

Something else the census confirmed for me: Hyattsville is significantly more diverse than it was ten years ago. In 2000, the breakdown of white, black and Hispanic was, approximately, 34 percent, 42 percent and 18 percent. Now the figures are 24 percent, 34 percent and 34 percent. (The numbers don’t add up to 100 percent because the Hispanic designation is based on national origin, not race.) This explains all the Spanish I hear spoken on the sidewalks, at the gym and in the stores. Actually, we have more foreign-born people of all nationalities; that number jumped more than10 percentage points, from 24.5 percent to 35.7 percent.

The census records that we have proportionally fewer children than we did in 2000; the 0 to 14 group went down from 20.6 to 18.3 percent. But this doesn’t seem to jibe with anecdotal evidence. I’ve noticed large numbers of families with young children and I’ve heard that our schools are bursting at the seams. Could there be an undercount?

We have proportionally more people aged 20 to 34. Could that be caused by the people who’ve moved into the new housing on Route 1 and by the students I assume live in the recently-annexed University Hills neighborhood?

We have proportionally fewer people aged 35 to 44 and we have more aged 45 to 74. There’s a drop in the group 75 to 84 and a jump in the 85+ group.

As for the money, it appears to be good news. We have a smaller percentage of people who earn less than $25,000 a year (from about 20 percent to 16 percent), although if the dollar amount were adjusted for inflation it seems likely that the proportion of low-earners has increased modestly from ten years ago. The percentage of people who earn more than $100,000 went up significantly, from 7.4 percent to 22.5 percent.

But there are some things that don’t make sense. Family income, adjusted for the Consumer Price Index, increased – but household income dropped. What’s the difference? Do we have a large number of households that are not families? Are they students? Are they unrelated people forced to live together by economic problems?

And there’s something even more puzzling. The median income of men working in permanent full-time jobs dropped about 3 percent, adjusted for inflation, which isn’t hard to understand, given the economic downturn. What is startling is that women’s median income dropped by 16 percent. What’s that all about?

I’m not a statistician, so I can’t really interpret all these numbers. But it’s critical information to have (though perhaps we shouldn’t accept it uncritically) as we try to discern our city’s future needs and allocate our resources.

 

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