Sustainable development is widely known to include three components. Economics, Environment, and Equity. Of the three, equity tends to attract the least analysis; that is the focus here. More specifically, to explore issues of equity, we present and discuss information about the distribution of income in the state of Maryland and its poor, unemployed, and overburdened populations. The findings reveal that Maryland remains among the richest states in the country with correspondingly low relative rates of poverty and unemployment. Poverty and unemployment remain persistently high, however, in certain locations--Baltimore City, Western Maryland, and the Upper Eastern Shore-- and among certain demographic groups-- female headed households, immigrants, and minorities. As a result, the state has a very uneven distribution of income. Housing prices and rents in the Maryland are also among the highest in the nation, resulting in high housing cost burdens for many low income residents.


In 2013, Maryland had the highest median household income in the nation, a distinction the state has held for several years.

Howard and Montgomery Counties have among the highest median incomes in the nation; while counties in Western Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore have the lowest median incomes in the state. Only Allegany County has a median income lower than Baltimore City.


In every county in the state, high income earners capture a disproportionate share of income. For the state, a household in the top 20 percentile earns nearly 14 times that of a household in the bottom 20 percentile. Although Howard County has the state’s highest median household income, Montgomery County has more of the state’s top earners and the greatest disparities in incomes.


Since 1979, incomes have grown 30 percent for those in the 90th percentile whiles incomes have grown not at all for those in the 10th percentile of the income earners.


Over the last decade, the unemployment rate in Maryland has closely followed the national rate but, until very recently, has been a percent or two lower. At the time of this report, the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show both the U.S. (February 2015) and Maryland (December 2014) unemployment rates at 5.5 percent.


From 2009 to 2013, Maryland’s unemployment rate was generally lower than the unemployment rates in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia, and higher than Virginia’s rate. Coming out of the recession, the unemployment rates in these comparison states appear to have fallen faster, such that Maryland’s unemployment rate is now higher than the rates in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The rate of underemployed in Maryland — which includes those who are unemployed, working part time for economic reasons, or have given up looking for work - has not fallen as quickly as unemployment after the last recession.


In September 2014, Baltimore City and Somerset County had the highest unemployment rates (not seasonally adjusted) in the state, at 8.4 percent. At 4.4 percent, Howard County had the lowest rate. Carroll, Montgomery, and Queen Anne’s Counties were close behind at 4.5 percent.


In the nation, the state, and every region of the state, the unemployment rate is higher for Hispanics than for Whites, and higher for Blacks than for Hispanics. The difference in unemployment between blacks and whites is largest in the Baltimore region and lowest in Western Maryland.


For the nation, the state, and most counties in the state, the unemployment rate for men is slightly higher than for women. St. Mary’s, Howard, Montgomery, Dorchester, Somerset, and Worcester counties have higher unemployment rates for women than for men.


Maryland’s poverty rate is well below the national average and considerably lower than that of neighboring Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.


Baltimore City has by far, the highest poverty rate in the state. Baltimore residents represent 26 percent of those below the poverty line but only 11 percent of the total population. Poverty rates are also high in Allegany County and for counties on the Lower Eastern Shore.


Selected groups of Maryland residents suffer very high rates of poverty. The unemployed, female headed households, disabled, and black populations have the highest rates of poverty in the state. Hispanics and those under 18 also have high rates of poverty

  • Note: * Population 18 and older ; ** Population 25 and older ; *** Population 16 and older.



Residents under the age of 18 represent 24 percent of the state’s general population but 31 percent of its poor population. Almost one-fourth of all youth in Allegany, Dorchester, Kent counties, and more than a third of youth in Baltimore live in households that fall below the poverty level. Blacks represent 29 percent of the population but 45 percent of the poor. Households headed by females represent only 15 percent of the population but 32 percent of the poor.

  • Note: * Population 18 and older ; ** Population 25 and older ; *** Population 16 and older.



The majority of the state’s poor live in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, Prince George’s and Ann Arundel Counties. Most of those poor residents are minorities

Poverty rates vary extensively by county and demographic groups in the state. In Queen Anne’s County there are no residents with a college education that have an income below the poverty level, while 46 percent of Hispanics in Worcester County have incomes below the poverty level. Female headed households tend to have high poverty rates in every county of the state, while only veterens and the college educated have low poverty rates in Baltimore City.


The percent of households with cost burdens in Maryland — defined as those who pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing - is much higher than the national average and higher than most neighboring states, except New Jersey.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2011-2013 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates
Median Monthly Housing Costs Percent of Households with Housing Costs ≥ 30% of Household Income Percent of Households with Housing Costs ≥ 50% of Household Income
U.S. $987 34.9% 16.0%
Maryland $1,415 35.9% 15.6%
Delware $1,109 32.4% 13.9%
New Jersey $1,497 43.4% 20.5%
Pennsylvania $901 31.8% 14.2%
Virginia $1,196 32.6% 13.8%
West Virginia $562 22.5% 10.2%



In 2013, there were an estimated 714,536 renter households in Maryland, representing 33 percent of all households in the state. Nationally, renter households account for 36 percent of all households. Within Maryland, tenure rates vary by county. Baltimore City has the highest proportion of renter households (53 percent) and Queen Anne’s County has the lowest (16 percent).


In 2011, there were approximately 687,698 renter households in the Maryland, representing 32 percent of all households in the state. Nationally, renter households account for 35 percent of all households. A high proportion of households who rent their housing and a low rental vacancy rate have been associated with increased rates of poverty and homelessness, due largely to increased competition for affordable housing. Tenure rates vary by county and region in Maryland. Baltimore City has the highest proportion of renter households (52%) and Queen Anne’s has the lowest (15%).

In every county, homeowners are more cost burdened than renters. Homeowners are most cost burdened in Somerset County, while renters are most cost burdened in Prince George’s County.

Despite having a lower median MHC than owner households, renters are more likely to have housing costs greater than 30% of household income than owners, both nationally and statewide. Although they represent just 32 percent of all households in the state, renter households account for 46% of households with housing costs greater than 30% of household income. Caroline is the only County where renter households are underrepresented among of households with housing costs greater than 30% of household income. Renters represent 28% of all households in Caroline and 26% of households with housing costs greater than 30% of household income. The majority (62%) of Maryland households with housing costs greater than 30% of household income have a household income under $50,000.



The rate of homelessness in Maryland is below the nation but above most of its neighboring states.


In Maryland, homeless people are more likely to be alone than in a family, and homeless are sheltered than unsheltered.

  • Note: Subpopulation data does not equal the overall homeless population number. This is because people could be counted as part of more than one subpopulation (e.g. a person could be an unsheltered, chronic, veteran individual).