Mass. population growth is tops in N.E.
Massachusetts is no boom state. But it's no Maine either.
According to new US Census Bureau estimates released this week, Massachusetts' population grew by 0.72 percent between the summer of 2012 and the summer of 2013, outpacing every other state in New England. Maine was one of only two states in the country to lose population.
From July 1, 2012, to July 1, 2013, Massachusetts grew by 47,521 to a population of 6,692,824.
That put the state's growth rate squarely in the middle of the national pack — 25th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to Robert Bernstein, a US Census Bureau public affairs specialist.
But regionally, Massachusetts was the leader, with the other five New England states all ranking in the bottom 10 nationally in growth rate.
Massachusetts has "some natural advantages vis-à-vis the rest of New England — we're a natural magnet for young people to come here to study," said Michael Goodman, an associate professor of public policy at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
He said the relatively high quality of life here and the economic situation were draws for graduates to stay.
Given that the state's population skews older — and is expected to get even grayer in years to come — continued movement to the area, by students and others, remains important for Massachusetts, he said.
"If there are lessons here, they're not new. They are . . . the importance of migration, both domestic and international," Goodman explained.
While the United States had a "very low rate of growth nationally," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, Massachusetts is "on the upswing."
He added that the state's pace of growth was the highest for Massachusetts since the period from 2008 to 2009.
Over the last year, Massachusetts grew at a rate almost identical to the United States as a whole, US Census data show, while Maine ranked 50th in terms of population growth between 2012 and 2013. Maine lost 199 people, a .01 percent population change, over the course of the year. Only West Virginia lost a greater number of people and had a greater negative percentage change of its population.
The top state in terms of percentage growth, according to the new estimates: North Dakota, which saw its population jump more than 3.1 percent.
As for the rest of New England's growth rates: Vermont ranked 47th nationally; Rhode Island, 45th; Connecticut, 44th; and New Hampshire, 42d.
Population data has big political implications for Massachusetts and every other state.
The once-a-decade nationwide census is used to determine which states will gain or lose representatives in the US House.
Massachusetts lost seats after the 1980, 1990, and 2010 counts. The state currently has nine US representatives.
But Goodman said the new population estimates give a sense only of how Massachusetts is faring right now. It is too soon, he said, to extrapolate how the state's population might shift by the time the 2020 Census comes along.
Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at University of Massachusetts Boston and the chairman of a Census Bureau national advisory committee, said it was, indeed, early to make any guesses about what 2020 might look like.
Still, he said, "any movement in a positive direction is a good sign given the fact that in the last decennial census, Massachusetts ended up losing a seat."
"What we're seeing really is the balance of two trends," Watanabe added. "The aging of the Massachusetts population, which tends to retard growth. On the other hand, Massachusetts is one of the leading states in terms of attracting new immigrants, which contributes to the slight increase that we're seeing."
State Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg, who was the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Redistricting in 2001 and 2011, said there was not yet enough data to draw many political conclusions. But, he said, "This is sounding like 2000," referring to a year when the state retained the same number of US representatives.
"Our population is growing, but not growing fast enough to put us in the comfort zone," he said. "It suggests that we need to keep working on holding as many people in Massachusetts as possible, in particular, young people who come to Massachusetts for their education."
Nationally, the new estimates found, the population of the United States on July 1 was 316,128,839. That's up from 313,873,685 on July 1, 2012.
Bernstein, the public affairs specialist at the US Census Bureau, said the three main streams of data used to make the population estimates were vital records (such as birth and death data), tax records, and the bureau's American Community Survey.