Apr 10, 2023 - News

Mapped: Boston area sees a population drop

Change in Massachusetts population, 2020 to 2022
Data: U.S. Census; Note: County-level data not available for Connecticut; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Massachusetts population shrank by 0.20% between 2020-2022, per new U.S. Census Bureau data.

Yes, but: The state would have seen a steeper decline if it weren’t for an influx of people moving to communities outside of Boston, especially Hampshire County.

The big picture: The past few years have been especially turbulent for population trends, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting birth and death rates, interstate and international migration, and more.

Zoom out: Idaho, Montana and Florida saw the highest population growth among U.S. states between 2020-2022, while New York, Illinois and Louisiana suffered the most shrinkage.

Meanwhile, Greater Boston is among the metropolitan areas hit particularly hard by population loss.

  • Suffolk County’s population declined by 3.39% between 2020 and 2022, losing nearly 27,000 people. State officials and business leaders attribute that in part to tech workers being able to work from anywhere with the onset of remote work, as well as the high housing costs in the area.
  • San Francisco, a tech hub with even higher housing costs, lost 7.1% of its residents.
  • Manhattan, however, grew a bit, as Axios' Emily Peck reports.

Zoom in: Hampshire County, which includes Northampton and Amherst, gained 16,000 people between 2020 and 2022, an 11% increase.

  • The Cape and Islands saw smaller population increases over those two years. Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties gained a combined 4,000 people.
  • Middlesex County, home to Cambridge, Newton, Somerville and Malden, lost nearly 12,000 residents, or 0.71%.

What we’re watching: Whether people leaving the Boston area have truly left the state altogether — as public officials and business leaders suggest — or a significant portion has settled in lower-cost parts of Western Mass instead.

  • Either way, there's never been a more fascinating time to look at data like this.
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