Massachusetts Population Now Exceeds Seven Million People; Immigrants Coming In Outnumber Americans Going Out

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By Colin A. Young
State House News Service

Massachusetts was one of 11 states that saw its population bounce back and grow this year after posting a decline in 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday as it released new data that show population trends and migration patterns have largely returned to pre-pandemic norms.

The Massachusetts population was estimated at 7,001,399 in the latest “Vintage 2023” population estimates from the Census Bureau, an increase of 18,659 people (or 0.27 percent) between July 2022 and July 2023. The data also shifts the Bay State back into the growth category after shedding about 7,700 people between July 2021 and July 2022.

The other states that lost population in 2022 but rebounded in 2023 were New Jersey, Ohio, Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan, Kansas, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Alaska.

Especially since remote work has made it easier for people to move among states, Massachusetts has taken a renewed look at how it stacks up competitively against other locales. Changes to the state’s population have become a key metric in debate around some of the most pressing public policy topics on Beacon Hill, including the state’s tax code, chronic housing affordability and inventory problems, the reliability of public transportation systems, and access to affordable child care.

Forty-one other states also expanded their populations in 2023, the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that that many states gained population, the bureau said. Massachusetts’s growth lagged the leaders both in terms of raw population growth (Texas added 473,453 people, followed by Florida with an addition of 365,205 people) and percentage growth (South Carolina and Florida were the two fastest-growing states in the country, growing by 1.7 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively).

“The increasing number of states with population growth reflects both the broad national trends of deaths and net international migration returning to pre-COVID levels as well as reduced net domestic outmigration for some of the states,” the Census Bureau said in a press release. It added:  “As more states experience population growth, that growth is no longer concentrated in only a few states. For example, four southern states — Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia — accounted for 93% of the nation’s population growth in 2022, but only 67% in 2023.”

Massachusetts’s growth rate also lagged behind the nation as a whole. The Census Bureau estimated Tuesday, December 19 that the country gained more than 1.6 million people over the past year, growing by 0.5 percent to a population of 334,914,895. The bureau called the national 0.5 percent growth rate “historically low,” but it represents an uptick from the 0.4 percent increase in 2022 and the 0.2 percent increase in 2021.

“U.S. migration returning to pre-pandemic levels and a drop in deaths are driving the nation’s growth,” said Kristie Wilder, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Population Division. “Although births declined, this was tempered by the near 9% decrease in deaths. Ultimately, fewer deaths paired with rebounding immigration resulted in the nation experiencing its largest population gain since 2018.”

The 2020 U.S. Census initially counted 7,029,917 people living in Massachusetts, but the bureau announced in May 2022 that it had actually overcounted by 2.24 percent and reduced its population count for the Bay State to 6,784,000 people. Compared to that revised figure, the 2023 estimate released Tuesday would represent an increase of roughly 217,400 people. The latest estimate is based on the 2020 Census count plus more recent data on births, deaths, international migration, and domestic migration.

Massachusetts experienced 68,387 births and 61,404 deaths between July 1, 2022 and July 1, 2023 — a net “natural increase” of 6,983 people. Over the same time, Massachusetts experienced a net outflow of 39,149 people to other states in the United States and a net inflow of 50,647 people from other countries — resulting in net positive total migration of 11,498 people.

The year prior, international arrivals could not keep pace with domestic outmigration and Massachusetts recorded a net negative total migration of more than 13,400 people.

Earlier this month, the state’s Secretary of Economic Development, Yvonne Hao, told the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies that the state’s population, and how it affects the labor force and economic growth, is “an area of concern” for the Healey administration. The economic development plan Hao was pitching to the committee, and which is expected to become legislation in the new year, aims to address things like the state’s high cost of living that are repelling some residents, she said.

“Pre-pandemic, Massachusetts showed consistent population growth bolstered by a steady stream of international immigrants that outweighed domestic outmigration. However … post-pandemic, this trend has taken a worrying turn. Our population is instead decreasing and the rate of domestic outmigration of the state has doubled,” Hao said. “In 2022 alone, we saw an average of nearly 1,100 individuals leaving Massachusetts per week. While some residents leaving are retirees, the majority are recent graduates and families.”


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