A Turning of the Wheel

November 2002 / Abell Reports / Community Development

Attracting new Americans into Baltimore City’s neighborhoods — again. Immigration is the key to reversing Baltimore City’s population decline.

And so they came, the waves of immigrants from Europe overwhelming Baltimore’s Locust Point, creating their own neighborhoods as replicas of the villages they had left, and energizing Baltimore City life at every level. By the 1920s these same immigrants and their descendants had made Baltimore City the third largest port of entry in the United States, and helped make it the sixth largest city in America. Diversity was the midwife of progress.

Now in the 21st century, there has been a turning of the wheel: With the population of Baltimore falling from about a million to about 650,000, along with the loss of industry and a complex of seemingly intractable social problems, a memory of Baltimore’s earlier immigrant experience and its contribution to Baltimore’s glory days are enticing Baltimore City’s leadership to observe carefully how other cities with similar problems have benefited from immigration, to freshen and invigorate their economies and lifestyles.