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Report: Minorities Driving Worcester’s Population Growth

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

 

The demographics of the City of Worcester underwent a considerable change between 2000 and 2010, according to a new report from the Worcester Regional Research Bureau.

In "Worcester’s Demographic Trends: 2010 Census," the Research Bureau found that the city's African American population increased by 77 percent during the first decade of the 21st Century. During the same period, the Latino population grew by 45 percent and the Asian population grew by 31 percent as well.

Meanwhile, the number of residents identifying as white decreased by more than 5 percent, even as the city's overall population grew by almost 5 percent to 181,045.

Since bottoming out in 1980, Worcester's population has grown by nearly 20,000 residents, an increase of almost 12 percent over three decades.

Surprising Demographic Shifts

"I think the most surprising was where people are coming from," said Roberta Schaefer, president and CEO of the Research Bureau.

As of the 2010 Census, 3,401 residents, or 9.63 percent of the city's foreign-born population, immigrated from Brazil, earning the South American country the top spot on the list.

With 3,356 foreign-born residents, or 9.51 percent of the immigrant population, originating from Vietnam, the country came in a close second. Ghana rounded out the top three as the home country for 3,049 residents, or 8.64 percent of the foreign-born population in Worcester.

While the decrease is the city's white population was not a surprise for Schaefer, the dramatic increase in the African American population was noteworthy.

"Worcester had never been a place that had attracted that many African Americans," she said. "It was kind of strange over the decades that they were moving into boston and Springfield, they weren't coming into Worcester."

The increase in the Latino population, on the other hand, was in line with expectations, siad Schaefer, who noted that the Brazilian population, despite descending from the Portugese, is likely still lumped in with Latinos in the census.

Latinos are the largest racial or ethnic group in the Worcester Public Schools, accounting for 38.4 percent of the district of 24,411 students in the 2011-2012 school year. White students account for 36.4 percent of the student body, and African American students represent 13.6 percent.

Also noteworthy in the report's findings was that nearly 30 percent of Worcester's population possessed a bachelor's degree or higher, trailing only Boston and New Haven in the New England region.

"In terms of the other cities in New England, we're doing pretty well," said Schaefer.

Applying the Findings

Schaefer was quick to point out that she did not know the reasons or factors that contributed to the various demographic shifts during the first decade of the 21st Century in Worcester, but the findings can still be immensely useful for the city, schools and organizations in the area.

"It's particularly relevant in terms of the schools for the variety of languages that we have spoken and also a need to understand better some of the cultural differences," she said.

"One thing I'm aware of is that the Ghanaian population seems to be flocking to the Abby Kelly Foster Charter School," Schaefer added, noting that many of the families are attracted to the culture of the charter school, in part due to its mandatory dress code.

Councilor-At-Large Joseph O'Brien touched on a similar issue at a recent City Council meeting when he encouraged increased diversity among Worcester's future police recruit classes to better reflect the makeup of the City's population.

Worcester by the Numbers

The demographic trends report is the first in the Worcester Regional Research Bureau's new series "Worcester by the Numbers." With the help of interns from Assumption College, the new reports are designed to provide data that should prove useful to public officials and a wide variety of constituents interested in shaping Worcester’s future.

"The next one we're working on relates to data about colleges and then we're going to look more at the economy," Schaefer said.

The idea for the series, Schaefer said, was initially suggested by Worcester's Chief Development Officer Timothy McGourthy in order to provide more data-driven information on the City's website and elsewhere for individuals interested in Worcester for business or other ventures. 

 

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