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Howard County, Maryland facts for kids

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Howard County
Main Street in Ellicott City, MD
Main Street in Ellicott City, MD
Flag of Howard County
Official seal of Howard County
Map of Maryland highlighting Howard County
Location within the U.S. state of Maryland
Map of the United States highlighting Maryland
Maryland's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Maryland
Founded May 13, 1838
Named for John Eager Howard
Seat Ellicott City
Largest community Columbia
 • Total 253 sq mi (660 km2)
 • Land 251 sq mi (650 km2)
 • Water 2.7 sq mi (7 km2)  1.0%
 • Total 328,200
 • Density 1,297.2/sq mi (500.9/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional districts 2nd, 3rd, 7th

Howard County is located in the U.S. state of Maryland. As of the 2010 census, the population was 287,085. As of the 2020 census its population rose to 328,200. Its county seat is Ellicott City.

Howard County is included in the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also part of the larger Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA Combined Statistical Area.

Recent south county development has led to some realignment towards the Washington, D.C. media and employment markets. The county is home to Columbia, a major planned community of approximately 100,000 founded by developer James Rouse in 1967.

Howard County is frequently cited for its affluence, quality of life, and excellent schools. Its estimated 2016 median household income of $120,194 raised it to the second-highest median household income of any U.S. county. Many of the most affluent communities in the area, such as Clarksville, Dayton, Glenelg, Glenwood, and West Friendship, are located along the Route 32 corridor in Howard County. The main population center of Columbia/Ellicott City was named second among Money magazine's 2010 survey of "America's Best Places to Live."

In 2010, the center of population of Maryland was located in the Howard County town of Jessup.


The name of the county honors Colonel John Eager Howard, an officer in the "Maryland Line" of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War, commander notably at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina in 1781, among others. He was the fifth governor of Maryland from 1788 to 1791. His home was the mansion "Belvedere", located at the present-day intersection of East Chase and North Calvert streets, north of Baltimore Town in an area also called "Howard's Woods", where Baltimore's Washington Monument was later erected and the neighborhood of Mount Vernon was developed in the 1820s.


Howard County is named for Governor John Eager Howard
The American goldfinch is the official county bird of Howard County.
Queen Anne's Lace in Pennsylvania.
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's Lace) was designated as the official flower of Howard County in 1984.

The lands of prehistoric Howard County were populated by Native Americans. The Maryland Historical Trust has documented sites along the Patapsco, Patuxent, Middle and Little Patuxent River valleys. In 1652, the Susquehannock tribes signed a peace treaty with Maryland, giving up their provenance over the territory that is now Howard County. In 1800, the mean center of U.S. population as calculated by the US Census Bureau was found in what is now Howard County.

In 1838, Dr. William Watkins of Richland Manor proposed the "Howard District" of Anne Arundel County. After several adjournments, the area of western Anne Arundel County was designated the Howard District in 1839. The district had the same status as a county except that it was not separately represented in the Maryland General Assembly. In 1841, the county built its first courthouse in Ellicott City. At the January 1851 constitutional convention, Thomas Beale Dorsey submitted a petition led by James Sykes. A committee was formed with Dorsey, Bowie, Smith, Harbine and Ricaud. After several postponements, the district was erected officially as Howard County on March 7, 1851.

The plantations of modern Howard County used slave labor as early as 1690. At the time of the Underground Railroad, some Howard County residents assisted slaves who were escaping to freedom. This was particularly risky, as many prominent plantation families were Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War, contributing militiamen to the South to protect local interests. Maryland was exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation, later abolishing slavery in the update of the Maryland Constitution in November 1864.

On May 1, 1883 Howard County joined Anne Arundel and Hardford County in liquor prohibition.

By 1899, Howard County contained 400 miles (640 km) of dirt and 48 miles (77 km) of stone roads, including three paid turnpikes maintained by 118 men. Most traffic consisted of loads delivered to rail crossings. In 1909, County Commissioners Hess, Werner and O'Neil were charged with malfeasance regarding contract bids.

In 1918, a deadly flu pandemic swept the county starting with an early outbreak in Camp Meade in adjacent Anne Arundel County. The 1930s saw a shift from one-room schoolhouses to centralized schools with bus service. By 1939 wheat harvesting fell to just 18,800 acres (7,600 ha). In 1940, local newspaper owner Paul Griffith Stromberg led a five-county commission to study a superhighway between Baltimore and Washington through Howard County. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 eventually led to the construction of Interstate 70 across northern Howard County and Interstate 95 across the eastern part of the county. The sparsely populated county hosted population centers in Ellicott City, Elkridge, Savage, North Laurel and Lisbon with W.R. Grace and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab as the largest new employers. Residents elected officials that campaigned to keep the county rural while planners prepared public works to support a quarter million residents by the year 2000. Race relations and desegregation became major issues of the time.

From 1963 to 1966 the Rouse Company bought 14,000 acres (5,700 ha) of land and rezoned it for the Columbia Development. In 1972, the Marriott company proposed to build a regional theme park on Rouse-owned land but was denied zoning.

The county has a number of properties on the National Register of Historic Places.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 253 square miles (660 km2), of which 251 square miles (650 km2) is land and 2.7 square miles (7.0 km2) (1.0%) is water. It is the second-smallest county in Maryland by land area and smallest by total area.

Howard County is located in the Piedmont Plateau region of Maryland, with rolling hills making up most of the landscape. It is bounded on the north and northeast by the Patapsco River, on the southwest by the Patuxent River, and on the southeast by a land border with Anne Arundel County. Both the Patapsco and Patuxent run largely through publicly accessible parkland along the county borders. The Patuxent border includes the Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs.

Adjacent counties


Howard County lies in the humid subtropical climate zone. As one travels west in the county away from the Baltimore area, the winter temperatures get lower and winter snow is more common. Annual rainfall is about 45 inches (1,100 mm) throughout the county. Over a 50-year period from 1950 to 2010, there were 394 National Climatic Data Center reportable events causing 617 injuries, and 99 fatalities. There were 9 reported tornadoes, reaching a maximum of F2, with no recorded fatalities.


For much of the 1800s and 1900s, Howard County was a predominantly white and mainly rural county with a small population and little ethnic, racial, or religious diversity. Howard County's legacy of racism includes slavery, lynchings, and segregation. In 1950, the population was only 23,000. Since the 1950s, the county's population has increased tenfold and has diversified into a majority minority county. Almost half of Howard County's population identified as non-Hispanic and/or non-white by 2017. Much of the racial diversification of Howard County came after 1967, when The Rouse Company designed Columbia to be a planned community that included people from diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. African-Americans have lived in Howard County for centuries, with the African-American population increasing greatly after the 1960s. Immigration from Asia, particularly Korea, India, and China, as well as Latin America, has also contributed to Howard County's diversity. While historically primarily Christian, Howard County now has sizable Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu populations.

Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 13,338
1870 14,150 6.1%
1880 16,140 14.1%
1890 16,269 0.8%
1900 16,715 2.7%
1910 16,106 −3.6%
1920 15,826 −1.7%
1930 16,169 2.2%
1940 17,175 6.2%
1950 23,119 34.6%
1960 36,152 56.4%
1970 61,911 71.3%
1980 118,572 91.5%
1990 187,328 58.0%
2000 247,842 32.3%
2010 287,085 15.8%
2020 328,200 14.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010–2018 2010-2020

2020 census

Howard County, Maryland - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 169,972 155,236 59.21% 46.71%
Black or African American alone (NH) 49,150 64,018 17.12% 19.26%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 511 461 0.18% 0.14%
Asian alone (NH) 41,101 66,073 14.32% 19.88%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 105 114 0.04% 0.03%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 746 2,213 0.26% 0.67%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 8,771 16,840 3.06% 5.07%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 16,729 27,362 5.83% 8.23%
Total 287,085 332,317 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 328,200 people by June 1, 2020 The population density was 1,300 inhabitants per square mile (500/km2)

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States census, there were 287,085 people, 104,749 households, and 76,333 families residing in the county. The population density was 1,144.9 inhabitants per square mile (442.0/km2). There were 109,282 housing units at an average density of 435.8 per square mile (168.3/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 62.2% white, 17.5% Black or African American, 14.4% Asian, 0.3% American Indian, 2.0% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 5.8% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 17.7% were German, 13.9% were Irish, 10.6% were English, 7.0% were Italian, and 4.6% were American.

Of the 104,749 households, 39.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.9% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 27.1% were non-families, and 21.9% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.72, and the average family size was 3.20. The median age was 38.4 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $103,273, and the median income for a family was $119,810. Males had a median income of $82,307 versus $59,128 for females. The per capita income for the county was $45,294. About 2.8% of families and 4.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.6% of those under age 18 and 5.5% of those age 65 or over.


Awards and recognitions achieved by Howard County or locations within it include the following:

  • "Best American Values", Newsmax Magazine: Ellicott City #17 (2009).
  • "Best Place to Live", CNN/Money: Columbia (#1 in 2016); Ellicott City/Columbia (#6 in 2014; #8 in 2012; #2 in 2010; #8 in 2008; #4 in 2006.)
  • "Best Places to Live for Pet Lovers", CNN/Money: Ellicott City, one of 10 (2009).
  • "Best Place to Raise a Family", Forbes: #17 (2008).
  • "Good Sports Community of the Year", Sports Illustrated (2005)
  • "Great Public Library System", Hennen's American Public Library Ratings: #4 in population category in 2010; 8 times appearing in top 10 in a 10-year range.
  • "Healthiest Maryland County", University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010)
  • "Heart Safe Community of the Year", International Association of Fire Chiefs. (2012)
  • "Library of the Year", Library Journal. (2013)
  • "Preserve America Community", Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. (2013)
  • Top Outdoor Concert Venue for Merriweather Post Pavilion (a top five) by Pollstar (2012).
  • "Tree City Community", Arbor Day Foundation. (23 years)
  • "Venues that Rock", Rolling Stone: #4 outdoor venue, Merriweather Post Pavilion (2013).
  • "Winning Community", National Civic League. (2001)

Culture and attractions



Howard County does not have any public or commercial airport facilities. A 1967 Airport Study Commission recommended a facility for 150–250 aircraft to provide economic development, but was not initiated. With the closure of Haysfield Airport, there is one privately owned airstrip, Glenair Airport in Glenelg. Commercial air service is provided by Baltimore–Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport.

Public transportation

Bus routes that operate in Howard County are managed by the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland and the Maryland Transit Administration.

Major Highways

2019-07-15 11 10 50 View south along Interstate 95 from the overpass for Maryland State Route 175 (Waterloo Road-Rouse Parkway) in Columbia, Howard County, Maryland
I-95 in Howard County
  • I-70
  • I-95
  • I-895
  • US 1
  • US 29
  • US 40
  • MD 27
  • MD 32
  • MD 94
  • MD 97
  • MD 99
  • MD 100
  • MD 103
  • MD 108
  • MD 125
  • MD 144
  • MD 175
  • MD 216


Howard County has no incorporated municipalities.

Census-designated places

The Census Bureau recognizes the following Census-designated places in the county:

Unincorporated communities

Unincorporated places not listed as Census-designated places but known in the area include:


Statistics for July 2014 indicate that Howard County's unemployment rate is at 5.2 percent (7,527 persons).

Howard County Public School System employs 8,136 of which 4,670 are teachers. The County Government employs 3,323 outside of the school system with 672 police, 482 public works, and 472 fire and rescue employees. The top ten private sector employers in Howard County are as follows:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory 5,000
2 Verizon Wireless 2,028
3 Lorien Health Systems 2,000
4 Howard County General Hospital 1,777
5 Howard Community College 1,294
6 Leidos 1,195
7 Giant Food 1,050
8 The Columbia Association 900
9 Wells Fargo 842
10 Oracle Corporation subsidiary MICROS Systems 815


The Howard County Public School System manages 71 schools and serves approximately 49,000 students. The graduation rate from this school district was 90.4% in 2009, and the county's schools are ranked among the best in the state. Student test scores consistently top the list for all Maryland school districts. Howard High School is currently the largest school in the county with over 1,700 students.


In 2013 Howard County Library System was selected as the Library of the Year by Library Journal and cited by editor-at-large, John N. Berry, as "a 21st-century library model, with a position, doctrine, purpose, and curriculum worthy of study and consideration by every library in America, if not the world." In 2015 the Howard County Library System was designated the top Star Library in its class.

Under the library's sponsorship, a campaign called "Choose Civility" started in Howard County in 2006. According to its website, "Choose Civility is an ongoing community-wide initiative, led by Howard County Library, to position Howard County as a model of civility. The project intends to enhance respect, empathy, consideration and tolerance in Howard County." The campaign's distinctive green bumper stickers are often seen in Howard County and neighboring areas.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Howard (Maryland) para niños

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