Where Are Massachusetts Residents Moving To?

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A blog published earlier this month by Pioneer shined a light on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ growing dilemma in the past decade: having more people emigrating from the state than migrating into the state. 


We know Florida is receiving the most in adjusted gross income (AGI) from residents leaving MA and MA is receiving the most AGI from migrants from New York. But what specific counties are people moving from and moving to? According to Pioneer’s Massachusetts IRA Data Discovery website, the top two counties people emigrated from in 2020 were Middlesex, with 26,920 residents leaving, and Suffolk, which lost 17,208 residents. 


The counties that most people moved to in 2020 from MA are Providence County, RI at 4,506 former Massachusetts residents, Hillsborough County, NH with 4,333, Rockingham County, NH with 4,321, Hartford County, CT with 2,268, and L.A. County, CA with 1,886 MA migrants. Of the top five counties people are moving to from MA, L.A. County is the only one that has a higher cost of living on average than Massachusetts. Other MA counties that had higher outflow than inflow of residents are Bristol, Plymouth, Norfolk, Essex, Worcester, Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden. 


Figure 1: Top 5 Counties Populations migrated from MA in 2020. Source: Pioneer Institute’s   Massachusetts IRA Data Discovery


Despite 10 out of the 14 MA counties seeing a net outflow of people in 2020, three counties had a net inflow. These were Barnstable, which gained 448 taxpayers, Berkshire gained 132, Dukes (Martha’s Vineyard) gained 98, and Nantucket gained another 37 taxpayers. What is causing more people to move to these counties when the rest of the state is experiencing a net outflow? To begin, Barnstable, Berkshire, Dukes, and Nantucket counties are all popular vacation spots, three of which are on the ocean. The pandemic may have influenced people to move out of cities and into the beach towns.


Figure 2: 2020 Net Change to Taxpayers for Massachusetts Counties. Source: Pioneer Institute’s   Massachusetts IRA Data Discovery


But this still does not explain why Berkshire County, which is located in the westernmost part of MA. One explanation is that the Berkshires are also a popular vacation destination which includes mountains, outdoor activities and a thriving art scene. According to The New York Times, Pittsfield, MA, a small city in Berkshire County, had the nation’s sixth highest influx of residents in 2020.  The Times attributes these population shifts, especially those from major metro areas to smaller towns, to “people able to work remotely at least part of the time [who] might accept a longer commute for more land and a bigger house.” 


Mitchell Bove is a Roger Perry Government Transparency Intern at the Pioneer Institute for Summer 2022. He is a rising junior at Suffolk University with a major in U.S. History and minors in Media & Film.