For decades, Prince George's County has carried the unique distinction of the country's wealthiest majority Black county, but data now shows that title belongs to neighboring Charles County.
“It's a place you can say I'm going to retire here and just say forget it, done,” Leslie Garner said.
Garner, a federal government worker who owns a gym in Prince George's County and lived there for 15 years, moved south to Charles County three years ago.
“I'll take the commute any day if I can have that peace when I get home,” he said.
Garner is part of a population shift that accelerated during the pandemic. Washington Post data columnist Andrew Van Dam investigated the trend in a recent article.
“The number of families who are Black and earning more than $200,000 has quadrupled in Charles County from 2009 to 2020,” he said. “It's just an enormous economic shift of the type we don't often see.”
The Washington Post analyzed census data and found Charles County's white population has declined while its Black population has risen above 50%, making it a majority Black county and surpassing Prince George's as the wealthiest.
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“The largest source of people coming into Charles County is Prince George’s, and a lot of those people are extremely high income, the sort of well off and middle class, upper middle class, upper class that we've come to associate with Prince George’s in the past 20 to 30 years,” Van Dam said.
He found that Black families are enjoying more options and less restrictions in where they can and want to live, and during the pandemic, commuting became less of an issue.
“You can tolerate an extra hour commute if it means you can get five acres of land on the waterfront in Charles,” Van Dam said.
Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said she doesn't see the shift as a loss for her county, but a gain for the region.
“The region is a very strong and competitive region, and we believe that Prince George’s County continues to do as well as it does because of our proximity to these amazing neighbors of ours, including the ones in Charles County,” she said.
“We kind of anticipated just based on the numbers that we would see this trend,” Charles County Board of Commissioners President Reuben B. Collins said.
Collins remembers when Prince George's was crowned the most affluent majority Black county in the nation and is preparing for what it means for his county.
“This transformation is something that’s ongoing, and the reality is you still have individuals in this community that don't necessarily see a change like this as being a positive,” he said. “I think it's a tremendous opportunity for Charles County to be considered an elite community.”
Charles County officials say they were still diving into the data to figure out what the numbers mean for the future of the county. They are interested in capitalizing what it could mean for the growth of the region.
Charles County's latest budget enjoyed a 14.2% increase in personal income tax gains over last year thanks to the wealth of its new residents, Collins said.
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