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Massachusetts: The fastest growing state in the Northeast

The commonwealth’s international migration rate is twice that of the U.S.

Since the 2010 Census, Massachusetts has been the fastest growing state in the Northeast and owes this growth mainly to steady immigration, says the latest population report from UMass Donahue Institute. Massachusetts population has increased by 344,718 persons cumulatively, or 5.3%, compared to a 1.2% cumulative increase for the Northeast region and a 6.3% cumulative increase for the U.S. as a whole. Overall, the Northeast Region - Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont - lost population from 2018 to 2019, with Massachusetts being one of the few exceptions.

A state-by-state map of population change, 2010-2019.

“While Massachusetts has held on as the fastest growing Northeast state since the last Census in 2010,” said Susan Strate, senior program manager of the Population Estimates Program, “dramatic decreases in the number of immigrants moving into the region and the U.S. as a whole indicate that this growth is not likely to be sustained in coming years.”

Influence of immigration and the foreign-born population

  • The MA international migration rate (per 1,000 persons) was highest in the Northeast and double the US average (in the 2018-19 period). The international migration rate of 4.1% for Massachusetts (U.S. as a whole was 1.8%) exceeds all U.S. regional averages and all other Northeast states. Although, notably, 2019 marks the first year since 2007 when international immigration was not large enough to offset all domestic outmigration, such that total migration summed to a net outflow (of 1,848 persons.)
  • According to the latest Census estimates, only Florida ranks higher than Massachusetts in its rate of annual net international immigration per 1,000 population. In terms of numbers of net immigrants, Massachusetts ranked 5th. (according to 2019 Census estimates for the 2018-2019 year)
  • Massachusetts has historically been one of the top first entry areas for immigrants coming into the U.S. At 17.4%, the percent of population that is foreign born in Massachusetts today is about the same as it was in 1850 (16.2%) and about half of what it was at its peak in 1910 (31.6%).

Millennial population wave influencing Greater Boston population growth

  • Boston - an area historically attracting persons in late teens through 20s  - has been growing faster than any other time since at least the 1930s and is a major driver of state population growth.
  • However, as most millennials start to age through their 30s in the decade to come, it remains to be seen whether this high growth will be sustained.

The full report of population estimates for Massachusetts.

The Population Estimates Program (PEP) provides robust primary data collection, data analysis, communication with the U.S. Census Bureau, and preparation of materials to be submitted in accordance with Census guidelines. PEP also produces population projections for Massachusetts geographies for use in both public and private planning initiatives and other development. PEP is a part of the Economic & Public Policy Research (EPPR) business group at UMass Donahue Institute. EPPR is a leading provider of applied research, helping clients make more informed decisions about strategic economic and public policy issues. EPPR produces in-depth economic impact and industry studies that help clients build credibility, gain visibility, educate constituents, plan economic development initiatives, and prioritize investments.

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