The One Minute Geographer: Massachusetts (1): The Package
An odd title, but appropriate. We’ll see as we go along how the demographic and economic traits of the Bay State are interconnected and apply elsewhere such as in Silicon Valley and Austin. The components of the interconnected package that all fits together are higher education, high tech industry, immigration and the ‘creative class.’ Let’s do a fly-over of the state first.
Along with Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, The Bay State adds “The Commonwealth of” as a preface to its official state name, a relic of colonial days that has no importance in modern governance. The “Bay” nickname comes from its bays, and there are a lot of them; eleven, although other states have more. Most notable are Massachusetts Bay, around which Boston curves, and the two bays that define Cape Cod: Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay.
Massachusetts is a small state in area, ranked seventh, but it will still take you four and a half hours to drive the 260 miles between Williamstown in the northwest corner near the New York State line to Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. Massachusetts’ population is a hair over 7 million, and its small size makes it the 3rd most densely populated state, after New Jersey and Rhode Island.
So, Massachusetts must be pretty much wall-to-wall cities and suburbs? No, slightly more than half the state is forested, especially the western half. You can see on the map of population density how the state’s population is concentrated in Boston and in outlying cities within an hour’s drive of Boston. The only significant exception is Springfield in the state’s western half. Massachusetts ranks second, after New Jersey, with 92% of its population living in densely urbanized regions.
Now consider Massachusetts’ recent population growth from 2010 to 2020. Up 7.4%, a rate exactly the same as the US as a whole. The state’s population grew by almost a half-million people; but nothing like Texas or Florida or many other western and southern states. So despite its…