Cultural Regions of Maryland

This diary is meant to be a little fun given all the heavy redistricting diaries we have on here. The one thing that’s always struck me about my home state is how it’s so diverse and interesting in spite of being so small. This diary will try to explain how the various cultural groups fit together by using Dave’s mapping program, along with accompanying demographic and political data.

Region 1 – Eastern Shore (blue)

292,037 people (5.1% of the state)

70.6% white, 21.5% black, 4.4% Hispanic, 1.4% Asian

44.0% Obama

46.1% Average Dem

This region is already well known to anyone familiar with MD politics, and is probably the easiest to define geographically – basically the entire Eastern shore, minus the wealthy Baltimore influence areas of Kent Island, St. Michaels, and Ocean City/Ocean Pines, as well as the college town of Chestertown and northern Cecil County.

This region is the most “Southern” part of Maryland, and would be more at home in tidewater Virginia than in the I-95 Corridor. However, given that this is not the Deep South, and that there is a fairly large black population as a holdover from slavery, Dem margins aren’t as bad here as one would think. Most of the counties still have Dem registration advantages, and as you can see, local Dems do slightly better than Obama did.

Region 2 – Prince George’s County (green)

901,776 people (15.6% of the state)

15.9% white, 67.5% black, 9.5% Hispanic, 4.2% Asian

87.5% Obama

86.1% local Dem

Geographically, this region includes all of central and southern Prince George’s County, as well as parts of northern Charles County, western Anne Arundel County, North Laurel in southern Howard County, and Calverton in Montgomery County.

Home to a large and renown middle-class African-American population, this region of Maryland is probably the closest thing in the rest of the nation to the Atlanta suburbs. It’s interesting that this region exists at all given that Prince George’s County was only 10% black in 1970. What happened to cause this shift was a court decision in the 1970s that demanded the complete racial balancing of all schools in the county. Whites fled, either out of racial fear or out of anger over having to attend a far-away school. Blacks from DC (and later from around the nation) came in to replace them, and the region has continued to grow ever sense. The most recent trend has seen the black middle class expanding outward into other counties. Just think how different Maryland politics would be if that court decision never happened.

Region 3 – Southern Maryland (purple)

297,796 people (5.2% of the state)

79.4% white, 12.7% black, 3.3% Hispanic, 1.8% Asian

43.5% Obama

50.3% Average Dem

This region spans all of St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties, along with southern Anne Arundel County and rural Charles County. This region is a lot like the Eastern Shore, but has held onto its Democratic roots a little more (as noted by the avg Dem performance). This once tobacco-producing part of the state once spanned all of Charles County and southern Prince George’s County as well. With time, the expansion of the DC suburbs will probably kill this region and make it into one big suburb with no southern tendencies to speak of.

Region 4 – Creative Class (brown)

1,712,227 people (29.7% of the state)

59.7% white, 15.6% black, 10.1% Hispanic, 11.5% Asian

65.5% Obama

66.9% Average Dem

When you meet someone who says they’re from Maryland, this is probably where they’re from. Including most of Montgomery County (MoCo), most of Howard County (HoCo), College Park and Bowie in Prince George’s County, northwestern Baltimore County, the wealthier part of Baltimore City, southern Frederick County, Chestertown in Kent County, and Annapolis in Anne Arundel County, this region is full of wealthy young professionals trying to climb the ladder of advancement. It’s hard to say when this region first took off, but I’m sure it has something to do with the GI Bill and federal government expansion in the 1940s.

This area has one of the highest income levels in the country, as well as one of the highest levels of educational attainment. It is staunchly liberal, one of the most liberal areas in the entire nation. It is the largest of Maryland’s cultural groups, and keeps growing larger each day. Who knows how much of Maryland will fall into this category in the future?

Region 5 – Baltimore exurbia (yellow)

776,454 people (13.4% of the state)

88.8% white, 3.9% black, 2.8% Hispanic, 2.8% Asian

35.8% Obama

38.6% Average Dem

This region includes northern Baltimore County, northern Harford County, western Cecil County, eastern Carroll County, northern Howard County, eastern Frederick County, and central Anne Arundel County, along with Damascus in Montgomery County, Linthicum in Anne Arundel County, Arbutus in Baltimore County, Kent Island in Queen Anne’s County, St. Michaels in Talbot County, and Ocean City/Ocean Pines in Worcester County.

This region is the nemesis of the Creative Class region. It is staunchly conservative and proud of it. A lot of people mistakenly think that the Eastern Shore is the center of Maryland conservatism, but no, this is. Andy Harris actually personifies this region – upper class, well-educated, but wanting nothing to do with society at large, and constantly scared that everything one has will be taken away. Look for this region to shrink as white flight from Maryland accelerates.

Region 6 – Western Maryland (teal)

333,931 people (5.8% of the state)

87.9% white, 6.6% black, 2.5% Hispanic, 1.1% Asian

38.1% Obama

38.6% average Dem

This region includes all of Garrett, Allegany, and Washington Counties, along with northern Frederick County and northwestern Carroll County. Staunchly conservative, this is the one region of Maryland that is historically Republican. This region was a major hotbed of abolitionism during the Civil War, and like eastern Tennessee hasn’t given up on Republicans since. The major issue here is shrinkage – Garrett and Allegany finally stopped losing population, but the eastern side continues to be devoured by the outward expansion of DC and Baltimore.

Region 7 – Delaware (grey)

42,144 people (0.7% of the state)

81.1% white, 9.8% black, 4.7% Hispanic, 1.7% Asian

49.3% Obama

51.1% Avg Dem

Encompassing northeastern Cecil County, this is the smallest of Maryland’s cultural regions, and exists as an outward expansion of Wilmington’s suburbs. It’s worth mentioning because its Dem performance is much higher than what its racial stats would suggest.

Region 8 – Baltimore, Hon!

610,137 people (10.6% of the state)

69.6% white, 17.0% black, 6.6% Hispanic, 3.7% Asian

48.9% Obama

56.6% Avg Dem

This region covers southern Harford County, southeastern Baltimore County, southern Baltimore City, southwestern Baltimore County, and parts of northern Anne Arundel County. This region is low in income and low in educational attainment (aka blue collar). Most of the people here actually came from the South and from West Virginia years ago to work in Baltimore’s then thriving factories. Now that the factories are gone, the region is best known for John Waters, drag racing, Natty Bo, and 98 Rock.

A lot has been made of this region’s racism, given how much worse Obama did compared to the average Dem. That difference is actually obscured somewhat by the numbers I’ve provided given that I included some racially-diverse (but still blue collar) neighborhoods that brought Obama’s numbers up. Given the lack of opportunity here, the region is constantly shrinking.

Region 9 – Hispanic Maryland (sky blue)

199,903 people (3.5% of the state)

14.6% white, 26.1% black, 49.8% Hispanic, 7.2% Asian

81.8% Obama

82.1% Avg Dem

Encompassing northern Prince George’s County and central Montgomery County, this region is a newcomer on the Maryland scene. It started in the 1980s when refugees from Central America began to settle in Prince George’s County. Since then, it has expanded greatly, and look for more expansion in the future. Issues here include poverty and low levels of educational attainment, but those issues might be less prevalent as citizenship becomes less of an issue.

Region 10 – African-American Baltimore (pink)

607,157 people (10.5% of the state)

12.7% white, 80.2% black, 3.0% Hispanic, 1.9% Asian

92.4% Obama

89.7% avg Dem

Encompassing most of Baltimore City, western Baltimore County, and a few scattered communities in eastern Baltimore County, this region is sadly known for extreme segregation and poverty. The region has its roots in the 1800s when runaway slaves wanted somewhere to live and work (Maryland was actually not a relatively bad place for a runaway slave to live in spite of the fact that the state had slavery). It expanded greatly during the Great Migration through the 1970s, when African-Americans from the South came north to look for factory jobs. You know the story from there – 1970s – jobs gone, 1980s and 1990s – crack epidemic, 2000s and 2010s – recovery.

One thing that should be mentioned is that the part of western Baltimore County in this region is actually very middle class, which has only worsened conditions in the inner city (as middle class African-Americans fled the city for the county). However, given that the two areas have a common history, I included them as one region. Baltimore City is actually losing blacks faster than it is losing whites now, and while some will head for the County, some will probably head South as well. Look for this region to shrink in the City but expand in the surrounding counties.

So that’s it; questions? comments?

54 thoughts on “Cultural Regions of Maryland”

  1. This really does capture the state and it’s cultural patterns very well. It’s sort of the unspoken pattern behind a lot of elections there and explains many things that otherwise politically make little sense, at least to outsiders.

  2. Although I can do the math myself if I wanted, you should post the percentage of the state in each region.

  3. The “Creative Class”, all those liberal arts degrees packed into that narrow strip.

    This really demonstrates why it is so difficult for a Republican to even keep it close in Maryland.  

  4. Most of the maps I’ve seen here definitely use this knowledge, even if it’s never been spelled out quite this definitively in one place on this site before.

    It’s about how to best leverage the different zones – both the ones who are your allies and those who are not.  

    Yellow is the most implacable foe. Chop that yellow zone up into as many small pieces as possible.

    People who draw for 7-1 usually leave the teal zone intact and throw as much yellow as they can with it; people going for 8-0 chop the teal zone in half and make sure the rest of those districts are brown (with those specks of sky blue in Montgomery in the mix somewhere) and leave other districts to take care of the yellow areas.  

    The whole purple zone goes with a guy who has proven he can get votes there, and that’ll be a safe district anyway since the other areas are green or brown.

    The blue zone is big and tough to deal with. Our approaches all start with finding a candidate (who, thankfully, seems to exist) who can get at least a decent number of votes from the blue and grey zones. Some plans plate slate blue areas in here with some brown at the west end, others attempt to reach the brown and green of DC suburbia.

  5. among other reasons, this diary is quite interesting in that it gives us insight into how a marriage equality referendum may proceed in MD (assuming it finally gets through the legislature in the next few years, and is put to the vote) …

    I’m making lots of assumptions here (back of napkin sort of thing) … but assuming pop. roughly corresponds to voting rates, then if among the creative class support for marriage equality is 70% (quite conceivable I think, as a huge percentage of Dems. here would support, plus a number of the GOP in this part of MD) then the support among everyone else would need to be at 42% … which, unfortunately, I find somewhat problematic — just don’t think it would reach that high right now … but ofcourse in 5 years it may be different, as attitudes on this issue have changed at lightning speed over the last decade …

    (if support among creative class is at 75%, then would need to have 40% support among everyone else to pass, btw) ..

  6. I would like to a Virginia one as a born-and-raised Virginian. Perhaps when I finish my two 20 page papers that are due next week I can spend time on this. I believe Virginia would be a little tougher to pin down given that it may have more cultural regions, as you call them.

    Fantastic diary, I should add.

  7. Very interesting idea. My home state of California is too complex to do, but I may try to do this for NoVA.

  8. Region 1 – Pine Barrens (blue) replaces Eastern Shore

    656,624 people (7.5% of the state)

    73% white, 11% black, 12% Hispanic, 2% Asian

    about 50% Obama

    Culturally similar to Eastern Maryland, although not southern, and more Democratic.

    Region 2 – Jersey, Capisce! (slate blue) replaces Baltimore, Hon!

    1,390,657 people (15.8% of the state)

    66% white, 9% black, 15% Hispanic, 8% Asian

    about 54% Obama

    White, working class people living in the first-ring suburbs. But that’s where its similarity with Baltimore, Hon! ends. This region was Republican until the 1990s. Then it became more Democratic but never got really Democratic. It’s still susceptible to a Republican wave. It’s heavily Italian, and Irish, and increasingly Hispanic. It’s very Catholic and probably majority pro-life.

    Region 3 – Creative Class (brown)

    2,513,034 people (28.6% of the state)

    59% white, 11% black, 12% Hispanic, 16% Asian

    about 62% Obama

    The Maryland description is perfect. Rush Holt personifies this region.

    Region 4 – Exurbs (yellow)

    2,442,626 people (27.8% of the state)

    84% white, 2% black, 7% Hispanic, 6% Asian

    about 41% Obama

    Again the Maryland description is perfect. Chris Christie, just like Andy Harris, personifies this region. New Jersey is more Republican than Maryland because its Republican exurbs region is bigger.

    Region 5 – Hispanic New Jersey (sky blue)

    983,686 people (11.2% of the state)

    19% white, 13% black, 61% Hispanic, 5% Asian

    about 78% Obama

    It’s much bigger than Hispanic Maryland. Albio Sires’ congressional district awkwardly strings together as much of this as possible. Hispanics in New Jersey are more Democratic than Hispanics nationwide. Some of these Hispanic communities are 100 years old.

    Region 6 – African-American New Jersey (pink)

    770,883 people (8.8% of the state)

    10% white, 61% black, 23% Hispanic, 2% Asian

    about 90% Obama

    Unlike Maryland, NJ does not have many middle class African-American suburbs. It has Hillside, Union, and Maplewood (around Newark) and Willingboro (in the south). Most of the people in this region are urban poor. Many African-Americans are moving into white-majority suburbs in other regions.

    Region 7 – Lehigh Valley (green) replaces Delaware

    34,384 people (0.4% of the state)

    81% white, 6% black, 8% Hispanic, 3% Asian

    about 50% Obama

    Like Maryland’s Delaware region, it’s part of metro-area from another state that spills across the state line.

  9. At least in the area I’ve lived and worked in in Maryland. It’s really quite incredible for a college student to have that strong an understanding of Maryland. I certainly don’t know anyone my age that could do it.

  10. I don’t know enough about California to do one for them; it would just be pure speculation on my part – maybe someone from there could do it. I’ve spent my whole life in Maryland, so I’ve thought about this stuff a lot.

  11. Based on how huge California is and how many little regions and subregions there are.  I mean, just in, like, Los Angeles…

  12. Also look at which legislators pushed the bill vs. which districts are in the “Creative class” region. The problem here is that the “Creative class” region is huge and politically powerful, but it’s not a majority of the state. So while people there really want marriage equality (and have the power to bring it to a vote), the rest of the state isn’t so hot on the issue.

    I was actually hoping that the bill wouldn’t make it out of committee, since I knew it wouldn’t pass a referendum and would only endanger some incumbents in more conservative areas. The fact that it did shows a definite split in the Democratic Party between Creative Class activists and old school Dems who don’t want to rock the boat, with the old school Dems barely holding onto power.

    Marriage equality will happen in Maryland, but it’s difficult to say when it would pass a referendum. That’s why I’d rather just wait for a court case after one of the old Court of Appeals justices retires (the last case in 2006 only failed 4-3).

  13. Yeah, it’s mind-boggling how one county can have double the population of my entire home state!

  14. Yeah, Virginia would be tougher, since it’s a lot bigger and culture is not just a simple matter of Democrat vs. Republican. I’d be interested in seeing such a thing though.

  15. It’s not perfect by any means (some regions going through a transition are hard to define as one thing or another), but I at least like to think I got it close.

  16. The yellow region is the worst – I could definitely see the legislature copping out and just giving Andy Harris his own yellow region district (rather than parsing it between Edwards and Cummings).

    The blue is definitely manageable though. You know who would be good there if Kratovil doesn’t want to run again? Sen. Jim Mathias – he’s very good at crafting the right image for the Eastern Shore, and seems to be moving up the political ladder in Maryland pretty quickly. However, given that the “Creative class” would hate his blue-dog conservatism, Congress is probably the highest office he could reach in Maryland.

  17. I got the name “Creative Class” from The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. Great book btw. I used the name because I thought someone who’s read the book would hear it and think “oh okay, the Portland, OR of Maryland!” lol.

  18.   Nate Silver had a very interesting post that showed the base Democratic voting percentages for each state. Maryland had the highest base Democratic vote at 51% – it was the only state above 50%. http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.n

     I liked living in Maryland much more than I like living in Atlanta.

  19. The Hasidic parts of West Hollywood from the gay ones.  Really should be two regions…ok, 50 or 60,000 people down, so we’re already 1/600th  done.  

  20. I lived in LA for almost all of my life, but I’d be about as good at doing NorCal as I would at doing New York (meaning probably terribly). And once you outside of San Diego, the Bay Area, or the LA area, I really might as well be guessing.  

  21. This brings up an interesting point – how much difference between groups is enough to make for different cultural regions?

    I mean, the groups I defined could be subdivided further. One group I considered creating was Jewish Maryland – which would have included Northwest Baltimore City, Northwest Baltimore County, and possibly Bethesda in Montgomery County, but I decided against it because:

    a) Jewish people basically set the standard for what it means to be “Creative Class,” (socially liberal, highly educated, etc.) so they mostly fall square within the category.

    b) Although hyper-localized in a few areas, Jewish people are scattered well throughout the “Creative Class” part of Maryland.

    and c) The heavily Jewish areas of Maryland are actually becoming less Jewish as the population disperses and people intermarry and whatnot.

    Therefore, I decided it wasn’t necessary, although one could make the argument that it is. The only interesting thing this would show would be that Obama underperformed with Jewish people around Baltimore, but not nearly as badly as he underperformed with Jewish people in New York.

    Another potential group would be Asian Maryland – Ellicott City and East Germantown would be the centers of this region. However, given that Asians don’t make up a majority anywhere, and that they also generally personify the “Creative Class” aesthetic and fall almost completely within its borders, I didn’t think this would be necessary either.

  22. Region 4A – Jewish Baltimore (Navy Blue)

    138,330 people (2.4% of the state)

    69.3% white, 18.9% black, 4.2% Hispanic, 5.3% Asian

    61.7% Obama

    68.1% Avg Dem

    I decided to include only the Baltimore Jewish areas because they are more distinct and have a much higher Obama-Avg Dem differential than the Montgomery County areas.

    Baltimore’s Jewish community goes back to the 1800s through waves of immigration, but really took off after World War II. The Baltimore Jewish community once spanned all of NW Baltimore City, but has since mostly moved to Baltimore County. As said before, the area has high income, high levels of educational attainment, and is very socially liberal despite some having reservations about Obama.

    The main issue here is shrinkage from 3 sources – 1) dispersion of Jewish people throughout the creative class areas, 2) intermarriage and abandonment of religion, and 3) the upward expansion of Baltimore’s black community. It’s quite possible that this won’t exist as a region years from now, but for the time being it will probably continue to serve as one of the anchors of the 3rd District, as it always has.

  23. I think there’s a distinction made between people who have the general Creative Class mindset between those like to settle in densely populated areas vs. those who are interested in having a bit more space between them and their neighbors.

    I have noticed that few people in Baltimore County or Howard County (call it 4A) care all that much about public transportation, which is definitely not true for people who live either in Baltimore City or closer-in parts of Montgomery or northern Prince George’s (call that 4B.)

    This wouldn’t manifest itself in every election, but I would posit that it could in something like a Governor’s race. I’d imagine support for Ehrlich 2010 could reach into the 30s or even 40s in a number of 4A precincts, whereas his support would be below 20% in most 4B precincts.  

  24. The big differences between Maryland and New Jersey are that Maryland has a much higher percentage of blacks, and that Maryland tends to have Greek-Americans rather than Italian-Americans.

  25. Baltimore, Hon is comparable to the working class Italian-American suburbs in NJ. The Eastern Shore is comparable to the Pine Barrens and Delaware Bay shore. The Republican Baltimore-exurbs that are personified by Andy Harris are also prevalent in New Jersey, personified by Chris Christie. The Republican exurbs region probably covers the majority of Republicans in the Northeast. The good news is their kids will grow up to be liberal. And of course the creative class is prevalent in New Jersey, probably as much as it is in Maryland.

    I’ll make a map when I have the time.

  26. Hampden, which is the neighborhood represented by that tentacle in the SE corner of the dark blue region on this map, is actually pretty light on Jews and always has been.

    The reason you see slight Obama underperformance relative to other neighborhoods you tagged as “Creative Class” is that it’s sort of a hybrid between that and “Baltimore, Hon!” Hampden is a historically working-class white neighborhood much like Highlandtown or Dundalk but has seen a huge influx of the Creative Class types and the two groups live side-by-side. So if you look at the voting patterns you’ll see something between those two groups.

  27. Like I said, these designations aren’t completely perfect – the hardest areas to define are those in transition. Jewish people are pretty scattered throughout the “Creative Class” area, so I figured there prob are some in the I-83 corridor in Baltimore. If Hampden is switching to creative class from “Baltimore, Hon,” then that would explain Obama underperformance, but whatever, you get the idea. Hampden is small enough to where it wouldn’t make a difference on the toplines.

    I was actually expecting a little bit more arguing like this over where certain areas belong lol, but you’re the first one who’s argued, so you’re good lol.

  28. But a lot of opposition to public transportation in the Baltimore suburbs is just because some suburbanites are worried that public transportation will bring “black people” to their neighborhoods. But of course people already in the City aren’t worried about this. I don’t think this in and of itself is enough to warrant a further subdivision.

  29. It’s fairly conservative – low 40s Obama since it does not include Salisbury but does include part of Wicomico County, all of Worcester County and all of heavily-black Somerset County.

    He won his Senate seat for the first time in 2010, taking over for the retiring Lowell Stoltzfus, who was so conservative he actually proposed a bill allowing the Eastern Shore to secede from Maryland in 1999.

    Mathias won because he was a very effective mayor for Ocean City and won praise from both sides for his efforts. He’s carried his reputation as a non-partisan problem solver over into every office he’s held since, which include both Delegate and now State Senator.

    He’s kind of a throw back to an earlier kind of Democrat in Maryland history, but he still has many good years ahead of him. Like I said, he wouldn’t please the “Creative Class” much, but he’s definitely right for the Eastern Shore (and is definitely better than some a**hole who wants to secede from the state).

  30. and so was his opponent. I read a news article shortly before the election where one person lamented about only being able to vote for one of them. How often does that happen?

  31. was a little different since it actually did vote for Obama.

    Southern Frederick County is transitioning quickly to “Creative Class,” and ran out of patience for Alex Mooney. Mooney was so conservative that he had a life-size statue of Reagan in his office and campaigned by passing out pictures of aborted fetuses on the streets of Frederick. Mooney (a 3 termer) actually outraised his Dem opponent Ron Young 10 times over and yet still lost in the best Republican year since the 1930s. That should show you how bad of a fit he was for the quickly-changing southern Frederick County.

    Mathias couldn’t rely on identity politics like Ron Young did, so he won the old fashioned way – reputation.

  32. read my comment below titled “Well” about Mathias first, since I wrote that first before I saw the “3 and 38” comment (and posted this response); the two posts together should tell you what you need to know about our two pickups in the State Senate :)

  33. And on Mathias, I agree that he does sound like a good fit for an Eastern Shore-based district.

  34. since the legislature is only up in midterms. More interesting is the O’Malley/Ehrlich numbers from 2010. I have a spreadsheet of them, and it’s amazing how many Democrats are in Ehrlich districts (while there is exactly one Republican in an O’Malley district). People talk about Maryland being gerrymandered, but if you look at the toplines it isn’t, the districts split about 56-44 for O’Malley.

  35. My roommate freshman year lived in Frederick and HATED Alex Mooney because of all the aborted fetus pictures he used to get. He had no idea, though, that Mooney was on thin ice until I showed him the 2006 numbers (when Mooney barely won). I’d like to think my revelation might’ve encouraged some to work against him, but I’ll never know. Still, I’m just glad he’s gone – Young actually supports gay marriage (talk about a huge shift).

  36. As much as I know and love my home state, I could always know more (or at least take more care not to overlook things).

    That’s the problem with knowledge, no matter how knowledgeable you are, there are still so many things you can’t know, can’t define, or can’t give adequate care and attention to :)

  37. I just keep thinking of The Wire when you talk about Baltimore’s ethnic/cultural composition.

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