printed 08/20/2021

The U.S. Census Bureau released the rough data from its 2020 headcount this week, and although the numbers have yet to be put in a form the general public can understand, they do provide food for thought.

For instance, did Worcester County grow by just 2 percent between 2010 and 2020, from 51,454 to 52,460? That’s what the data says, although it will undoubtedly be disputed, as officials argue that this low growth figure reflects the failure of Worcester residents to participate fully in the decennial census process.

The same argument would apply to Ocean City, which according to the census, lost 3.6 percent of its population over the last 10 years, dropping from 7,102 to 6,844, while Berlin gained more than 12 percent. The census bureau says that town’s population rose by 541 people, to 5,026 from 4,485 in 2010.

And that’s where the arguments get tricky, because if Ocean City’s numbers appear to be down because of the area’s lack of participation in the head count, does that mean Berlin grew even more than the numbers show if the rate of census participation was relatively even? Or did Ocean City residents shrug when asked to fill out the forms, while Berlin’s population did a better job of it?

There’s no way to know, although a growing Berlin and a slightly declining population in Ocean City could make sense, if the census housing totals are true.

The data sets made available this week show Berlin gaining 166 housing units, and Ocean City losing 91. Add to that the erosion of purely single-family neighborhoods in the resort, and it just could be that the quieter natures of Berlin and Ocean Pines, which is up 1,000 residents or so to a population of more than 12,100, are drawing some people away from Ocean City.

Although it’s not too early to begin wondering what it all means, it is too soon to start doing real numerical breakdowns and analysis. That will have to wait until more detailed and easier-to-understand figures start trickling out next month. Then the discussions concerning growth, or lack of it, can begin in earnest.

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