Immigration in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has become increasingly dependent on foreign immigration for its labor force. The Changing Workforce: Immigrants and the New Economy in Massachusetts, a report by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies for MassINC and Citizens Bank, found that immigrants make up 11.6 percent of the Massachusetts population and 13 percent of the state’s work force. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, immigrants to Massachusetts primarily came from Ireland, England, Germany, and Canada. As late as 1960, the foreign-born population remained 98 percent white. Now, the countries sending immigrants to Massachusetts changes from year to year. (The report treats Puerto Rican natives who move to the mainland as foreign immigrants, even though they are US citizens, because the Census Bureau does not count island residents as part of the US population.) In recent years, the influx of immigrants counteracted a high rate of out-migration of native-born to other states. Without these newcomers, the Massachusetts population would have declined, resulting in a severe labor shortage that could have hampered the state’s robust economic growth. Only the mid-Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are more dependent on foreign immigration for labor-force growth than New England.

 

NATIONAL ORIGIN OF IMMIGRANTS IN MASSACHUSETTS (top 10 countries)

Country Percentage of Total Foreign Born Population
Puerto Rico
14%
Portugal & Azores Islands
12%
Canada
5%
Cambodia
4%
Italy
4%
Ireland
4%
England
4%
China
3%
Haiti
3%
Vietnam*
2%
Brazil*
2%
*tied for 10th place
 

CHANGING COMPOSITION OF FOREIGN-BORN POPULATION IN MASSACHUSETTS
Country of origin for immigrants arriving before 1980 % of foreign born Country of origin for immigrants arriving 1980-1989 % of foreign born Country of origin for immigrants arriving since 1990 % of foreign born
Portugal & Azores 19% Puerto Rico 14% Puerto Rico 14%
Puerto Rico 14% Cambodia 10% Brazil 6%
Canada 8% Haiti 8% El Salvador 5%
Italy 5% Portugal & Azores 6% Russia 4%
Ireland 5% Vietnam 4% India 4%
England 5% Poland 4% China 4%
Germany 4% China 4% Dominican Rep. 3%
Greece 3% El Salvador 3% Ireland 3%
China 2% India 3% Vietnam 3%
Poland 1% Brazil 3% Jamaica 3%

Source: The Changing Workforce: Immigrants and the New Economy in Massachusetts