Massachusetts seeing population growth

But pace slowing; out-migration a problem


THE POPULATION OF MASSACHUSETTS is growing at a rate about three times more rapid than surrounding states, a good sign for the state’s economy and its prospects of retaining all of its seats in Congress after the next census, officials said.

With an estimated population of 6,794,422 as of July 1, Massachusetts is the 15th most populous state in the country, dropping one spot from its rank five years ago, according to federal census data released Tuesday. The state’s population increased by an estimated 39,298 people over 2014 and an estimated 246,605 people since 2010.

“Massachusetts continues to really set itself apart from the region in terms of growth. Basically every place else in the northeast … their growth is either stagnant or some are even losing population,” said Susan Strate, a senior program manager for the Population Estimates Program at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute. “Compared to the rest of the northeast region, Massachusetts is growing three times as fast as the region.”

Nationally, Massachusetts ranked 27th (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) for growth rate over the last five years. North Dakota ranked No. 1, followed by Colorado, the District of Columbia, Nevada, Florida, and Texas.

“Looking at it from an annualized point of view, Massachusetts is growing faster based on the average annual growth rate than it has since the 60s and the 70s,” Strate said.

Secretary of State William Galvin heralded the data, which showed Massachusetts led the northeast in population growth in the last five years, as a sign that Massachusetts could keep its current number of congressional seats after the full census in 2020.

“As we stand halfway from the next Federal Census, our robust growth in the region, which closely follows the national increase, bodes well for the Commonwealth retaining its Congressional delegation in the reapportionment after 2020,” Galvin, the state’s liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau, said in a statement.

After the 2010 census, Massachusetts lost one congressional seat despite a population growth rate of 3.1 percent over the first decade of the 21st century. It was the first time since 1990 that the state lost a seat in Congress as a result of the decennial census. The state also lost a seat after the 1980 census.

But the state’s growth rate may be front loaded, Strate said. Massachusetts came flying out of the gates in 2010 and the population grew at a steady clip through 2013, but has since slowed down.

“One reason it is starting to slow is increasing domestic out-migration, that’s people on the balance moving out of Massachusetts into other parts of the US,” she said. “That’s been a typical pattern for Massachusetts. More people tend to move out of the state than move in. In the past year, it is estimated that almost 22,000 moved out of the state on net to other parts of the US.”

A slow reduction in the ratio of births to deaths in Massachusetts, Strate said, may also have contributed to the slowing down of the population growth.

“What keeps us very strong, though, is the international immigration component,” she said. “While we have people moving out of Massachusetts to other states … we have a very large number of internationals moving in, 43,508 in the last year.”

Though the newly-released population estimates are just that — estimates — and the 2020 census will determine whether Massachusetts maintains its seats and influence in Congress, Strate said the 2015 numbers bode well for the Bay State.

“In the short term, I’d say it seems to be indicator of our economic vitality. We came out of the recession strong,” she said. “Massachusetts has some things working against it, as does the rest of the northeast, which is its population is aging … What it has going for it is that young people, some domestic and some international, keep moving into Massachusetts and this tends to keep the economy strong.”