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Housing Prices Drive Westward Migration from Boston to Worcester

Friday, February 07, 2014

 

Worcester's population in recent years has increased with an affluent influx from Middlesex County.

That adjacent neighbor contributed about 6,314 new Worcester County residents between 2007 and 2011 according to recently released U.S. Census statistics tracking population migration across the nation.

In Central Massachusetts, the data captures 58,584 individual relocations between Worcester County and other parts of the state, country, and abroad.

The statistics show about 6 percent of the U.S. population moves in any given year. About 16.8 million people moved to a different county each year, but, as evidenced in Worcester, those relocations typically weren't cross-country.

Locally and across the nation, the common pattern is a continuing shift from major cities to neighboring jurisdictions. The Census shows where people are relocating to, but why are they moving?

Jobs, schools, and housing prices drive migration

John C. Brown, a professor of Economics at Clark University and research fellow with the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise, splits the Bay State into three parts: Boston, the central Worcester region, and points farther west that have seen population declines.

Middlesex was the largest single origin and destination for people moving into and out of Worcester County. But Worcester saw a positive net migration flow, including significantly those households making $100,000 a year or more.

“My guess is that's a big response to housing prices,” Brown said, particularly with respect to lower- to middle-income households that are more sensitive to housing costs.

“For Massachusetts particularly, it's the housing that's important.” With limited housing stocks and increasing prices closer toward high-technology and population dense Boston, Brown said people were choosing to live along the Massachusetts Turnpike along the commuter line.

“On a broad basis, it's determined by in-migration and out-migration,” said Deborah Merrill, a Sociology professor at Clark University, describing general population trends. “It could be changes in the age structure in the area.”

“So if you have younger people getting jobs elsewhere, there could be outgoing migration. And if you have an older population ... you have people retiring and moving to warmer climes.”

Among longer migrations (greater distances), those with higher levels of educational achievement tend to be the most mobile according to Brown.

Slight westward movement from Middlesex to Worcester

Middlesex contributed a net 344 residents to Worcester in households making $150,000 or more annually, and 401 residents in households making between $100,000 to $149,999. (The Census also reported a net gain of 129 individuals from Middlesex making $75,000 or more.)

Merrill said population changes like those can be because of more people moving to the suburbs from Boston, and commuting to that major metropolitan.

Boston's Suffolk County saw a net loss of residents moving to other parts of Massachusetts, but a gain in the number of residents from other states and abroad. The size of Massachusetts' foreign-born population ranked 7th in the nation in 2011 according to the Migration Policy Institute.

City of Worcester population increasingly diverse and educated

The city of Worcester's population has gone up since 1980, increasing by almost 20,000 residents, or nearly 12 percent, by 2010.

Last year's demographic trends report by the Worcester Regional Research Bureau found the city's population was increasingly diverse, driven by big gains in racial and ethnic minorities between 2000 and 2010.

The research bureau also found increasing levels of educational attainment in the past decade, with more residents holding a bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree.

Merrill suggested some of the change could be due to the region's many colleges and medical facilities.

Given increasing housing stocks in the city evidenced by the research bureau's report, Brown said assuring quality public schools could create a very attractive city for more families to move it. “It could be a winning combination,” attracting higher-income households that move based on schools.

Nearby neighbors moving in, higher incomes heading south

From outside of Massachusetts, Providence County in Rhode Island, Hillsborough County in New Hampshire, and Hartford and New Haven counties in Connecticut provided the greatest incoming migration flow to the central part of Massachusetts.

Lee and Volusia counties in Florida and Travis County in Texas also contributed more than 200 new residents apiece to Worcester.

Of those leaving Massachusetts, Worcester lost large numbers of households making $100,000 or more to states like Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and Florida.

The Census reported the top shifts in population occurred between counties in large metropolitan areas including Los Angeles and Riverside-San Bernardino, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, New York, and Baltimore.

 

Related Slideshow: Central Massachusetts Migration Totals

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13. Hampshire County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: -165
Outbound Migration: 772
Inbound Migration: 607

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 46
Graduate or Professional Degree: -3

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 54
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 5

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

11. Norfolk County (Tie)

Migration Totals

Net Migration: -121
Outbound Migration: 1,636
Inbound Migration: 1,515

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 75
Graduate or Professional Degree: -28

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): -51
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): -44

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

11. Franklin County (Tie)

Migration Totals

Net Migration: -121
Outbound Migration: 701
Inbound Migration: 580

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: -30
Graduate or Professional Degree: 22

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 4
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): -21

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

10. Barnstable County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 8
Outbound Migration: 250
Inbound Migration: 258

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: -47
Graduate or Professional Degree: -25

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): -3
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 22

For more migration pattern details,
click here.

Prev Next

9. Nantucket County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 20
Outbound Migration: 0
Inbound Migration: 20

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: N/A
Graduate or Professional Degree: N/A

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): N/A
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): N/A

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

8. Dukes County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 36
Outbound Migration: 45
Inbound Migration: 81

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: N/A
Graduate or Professional Degree: N/A

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): N/A
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): N/A

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

7. Suffolk County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 165
Outbound Migration: 1,407
Inbound Migration: 1,242

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 143
Graduate or Professional Degree: 106

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 105
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 98

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

6. Bristol County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 197
Outbound Migration: 567
Inbound Migration: 764

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 139
Graduate or Professional Degree: 7

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 40
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 21

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

5. Berkshire County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 207
Outbound Migration: 71
Inbound Migration: 278

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: -33
Graduate or Professional Degree: -11

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 0
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): -14

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

4. Hampden County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 213
Outbound Migration: 1,005
Inbound Migration: 1,218

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 99
Graduate or Professional Degree: -3

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 64
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 29

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

3. Essex County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 360
Outbound Migration: 479
Inbound Migration: 839

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 112
Graduate or Professional Degree: 65

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 115
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 55

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

2. Plymouth County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 377
Outbound Migration: 554
Inbound Migration: 931

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 116
Graduate or Professional Degree: 6

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 1
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): -23

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

1. Middlesex County

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 1,863
Outbound Migration: 4,451
Inbound Migration: 6,314

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 280
Graduate or Professional Degree: 258

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 344
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 129

For more migration pattern details, click here.

Prev Next

Worcester County Totals

Migration Totals

Net Migration: 2,709
Outbound Migration: 11,938
Inbound Migration: 14,647

Net Migration by Education

Bachelor's Degree: 900
Graduate or Professional Degree: 394

Net Migration by Income

Household Income ($150,000 or more): 673
Individual Income ($75,000 or more): 257

For more migration pattern details, click here.

 
 

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