Maryland’s history, like that of many U.S. states, has been fraught with conflict. Boundary disputes with Virginia, beginning with the 1632 charter granted to the 1st Baron Baltimore, were finally settled in 1930, although the use of the Potomac River remains an issue today.
Another boundary issue developed with Pennsylvania. Maryland's royal charter placed its northern border at the 40th parallel, thus encompassing part of Philadelphia. The resulting violent conflict, Cresap's War, began in 1730 and finally ended in 1738 when King George II stepped in, mandating a cease-fire. The dispute wasn't resolved, however, until 1767, when the Mason-Dixon Line was established as the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania - not, as some believe, as the boundary between the North and the South.
Religious freedom was also a contentious aspect of Maryland history. The 2nd Baron Baltimore sought to make the colony a refuge for persecuted Catholics, but as Maryland's Puritan population grew, so did religious tensions. And although a toleration act - sometimes viewed as a forerunner to the First Amendment - was passed in 1649, it was repealed when the Puritans gained control. This led to a brief armed conflict, but the Puritans retained power. When a large number of Catholics immigrated to the state in the 19th century, discrimination against Catholics finally waned.
The colony of Maryland joined in the American Revolution against the British and helped to ratify the Articles of Confederation and the new Constitution. Subsequently, in 1788, Maryland was admitted to the union as the 7th state. In 1790, Maryland and Virginia ceded land on which to build the nation's new capital, Washington, D.C., but Maryland's position as a border state placed it in an unenviable position during the Civil War. Families were torn apart as their sons fought for different sides. And although Maryland was a slave state, it remained in the Union. Culturally, rural Maryland is more Southern in nature, while urban regions are more Northern.
The ninth smallest state in terms of land area, Maryland has more than 5.9 million residents, resulting in the fifth highest population density in the country. 88% of Marylanders have graduated from high school, while 36% are college graduates, putting the Old Line State in the top five states for residents with bachelor’s degrees. Thanks in part to this well-educated workforce, Maryland is the wealthiest state in the U.S. with a nation-leading median household income of $73,538 as of early 2016 – roughly $20,000 higher than the U.S. median. It also has one of the lowest poverty rates at 9%, although its largest city, Baltimore, has a significantly higher poverty rate of 23%.
In terms of diversity, 58% of residents are white, 29% are black, 8% are Hispanic, 5% are Asian and 2% are multiracial. In addition, approximately 13% of Marylanders are foreign born. Leading ethnicities include German (8%) and Irish (7%), with Baltimore being home to the state's largest concentrations of Italians (3%) and Poles (2%), as well as an African American majority within the city limits of 63%. Approximately 6% of the state population speaks Spanish at home, while 1% speaks Chinese and another 1% speaks an African language.
Along with high incomes come high real estate prices, of course. As of early 2016, the statewide median home value was $302,316 – approximately $120,000 higher than the U.S. median – while the median rental price was also far above national standards at $1,422. Some of the most expensive areas for owning a home are the closest suburbs to Washington, D.C., including Chevy Chase, Potomac and Bethesda, which had median home values of $1 million, $920,126 and $855,720, respectively, in early 2016. More affordable options, relatively speaking, include smaller cities like Gaithersburg ($381,356) and Frederick ($255,720).
Maryland’s close proximity to Washington, D.C. provides myriad opportunities for employment in the federal government, and accordingly, it has the second highest percentage of federal employees (5.5%) in the U.S. In raw numbers, that translated into over 143,000 Marylanders in 2013. Many federal agencies are, in fact, located in Maryland: the Census Bureau, Environmental Protection Agency, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration and National Security Agency, to name only a few. In addition, the military has a significant presence in Maryland with facilities like Andrews Air Force Base, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Meade and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, the state capital.
With over 500 biotechnology firms – including AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline – Maryland has the second largest cluster of life sciences organizations in the U.S. It’s also home to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the BioMaryland Center, which facilities scientific research. On top of that, Baltimore’s renowned John Hopkins University is the country’s top recipient of NIH awards. Other major components of the Maryland economy are aerospace and defense (which provided 98,730 private sector jobs in 2014); information technology and cybersecurity (thanks to the presence of the U.S. Cyber Command and National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence); fishing (the Chesapeake Bay yields more blue crabs than any other state); and manufacturing (including medical devices and electronics). In 2015, the state was home to four Fortune 500 companies: Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Host Hotels & Resorts and Discovery Communications.