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. 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.  

  3. 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.

  4. 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) ..

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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