Media Coverage

Mass. exodus: State residents on the move

Some take their jobs with them.

Boston- Massachusetts residents moved to other New England states at a faster pace in the last five years, with much of the exodus coming from middle-class families who are electing not to establish roots here, according to a study to be released today.

The analysis of Census and Internal Revenue Service data by MassINC, a public policy research group, found 213,000 people left Massachusetts for another sate between 1990 and 2002, and a net 79,000 moved to other New England states with almost all of the net shifting to New Hampshire.

Economists view Massachusetts' ability to attract and retain well-educated workers as one of its greatest long-term challenges. While the job market remains slack at the moment, the state's technology-based economy suffers from chronic shortages of skilled workers during economic expansions.

Massachusetts appears to be doing well at attracting smaller numbers of highly-educated workers to the state from economic competitors like California and New York. But the study's authors said the profile of the growing wave moving out of the state was troubling.

While the exchange with economic competitor states largely involves well-educated, but young and unmarried people- the kinds of workers who are less likely to be making investments in a community- the people moving to New England more closely resemble members of a typical Massachusetts family. About half are married, and a third have children. Though they are less likely to be native born than non-migrants, they are more likely to have a bachelor's or higher degree.

"A lot of people that are moving out, participate in the civic life of the communities," said Mike Goodman of the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, co-author of the study.

While New Hampshire continues to be the largest beneficiary, both Connecticut and Rhode Island have reversed population losses to Massachusetts and are now attracting residents from the Bay State.

The study did not consider the effect of international migration, which has caused the Massachusetts population to increase overall since 1990 despite the net loss to other states. It also did not address why Massachusetts residents are leaving, though a previous MassINC study identified cost-of-living as a principal factor.

Among its findings:

Florida continues to be the most popular destination, with a net outflow from Massachusetts of just under 1,000,000 between 1990 and 2000. But troublingly for Massachusetts, only 42 percent of those who moved were 55 or older.

"We are losing people in their prime working years to Florida," Goodman said, adding the increase in departures to second-place New Hampshire indicate Massachusetts residents are moving for reasons other than the weather.

About four in five Massachusetts residents who move to New Hampshire take their jobs with them, and do not continue to commute to the Bay State. The rate of migration to New Hampshire has increased in the last five years.

Rhode Island gained 6,000 people from Massachusetts over the last four years, and Connecticut became a net importer from the Bay State in 2001 and 2002. Both states exported people to Massachusetts in the early 1990s.

On a more optimistic note for the state, the report found Massachusetts continuing to attract young, single, highly-educated workers. The state had a net gain of 14,428 from the states it considers its closest economic competitors.

"We're really talking more about brain exchange rather brain drain," Goodman said. "People that are highly skilled also tend to be highly mobile."

Still, the number of migrants gained from competitor states paled in comparison to the 213,000 overall departures to other states.

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