State faces domestic migration losses, Springfield is a concern

Jan. 7, 2020 | Katie Lanaan, State House News Service, and Reminder Publishing staff

Reminder Publishing file photo.

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Population in the Northeast region of the United States dropped in 2019 for the first decline this decade, while population growth nationally continued to slow. Massachusetts was among the top states for domestic migration losses, according to new Census Bureau estimates.

The estimates released last week tallied the population of Massachusetts, as of July 1, at 6,892,503 in 2019, up from an estimated 6,882,635, making it one of the 40 states whose population grew between 2018 and 2019.

Despite the overall increase, Massachusetts was one of 27 states that lost population through net domestic migration, the movement of people to other states. The biggest net domestic migration losses, in order, were in California (-203,414), New York (-180,649), Illinois (-104,986), New Jersey (-48,946), Massachusetts (-30,274) and Louisiana (-26,045). Of those six states, New York, Illinois, Louisiana and New Jersey lost population overall, while the domestic migration losses in Massachusetts and California were offset by other gains.

Domestic migration drove the population decrease in the Northeast, the Census Bureau said.

The region’s population declined by 63,817 people – about a tenth of a percent – to 55,982,803. Net domestic migration accounted for a loss of 294,331 people, more than were added to the population from natural increase, or births minus deaths, of 97,152, and by net international migration of 134,145.

The South, meanwhile, experienced the largest regional population growth from 2018 to 2019, rising by more than 1 million people to 125,580,448, primarily due to natural increase and domestic migration.

Nationally, net international migration has been declining since reaching a high for the decade in 2016.

The country's population grew by half a percent, or more than 1.5 million people, to 328,239,523 in 2019. Annual growth peaked for the decade at 0.73 percent, between 2014 and 2015, the Census Bureau said.

“While natural increase is the biggest contributor to the U.S. population increase, it has been slowing over the last five years,” Sandra Johnson, a demographer and statistician in the bureau’s population division, said in a statement. “Natural increase, or when the number of births is greater than the number of deaths, dropped below 1 million in 2019 for the first time in decades.”

Forty-two states, including Massachusetts, had fewer births in 2019 than in 2018. The eight states with more births in 2019 were Washington, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Vermont and Colorado.

The Census Bureau plans to release 2019 population estimates for counties and municipalities, as well as national and state-level breakdowns by age, sex and race, in 2020. The 2019 estimates are the last official series to be released prior to the 2020 Census.

Secretary of State William Galvin is the Census liaison for Massachusetts, and Galvin's office and advocacy groups have been stressing the importance of an accurate count in 2020. Census population figures are used to determine Congressional representation and the allocation of federal funding.

In recent months, Galvin has highlighted challenges facing the Cape and Islands region and Western Massachusetts.

Galvin, statewide Complete Count Committee Chair Eva Millona and lawmakers held a strategy session in Barnstable in November, focusing on challenges associated with counting Cape Cod residents who are out-of-state in the winter, those who do not receive mail at home, a rising homeless population and foreign-born workers who maybe unaware or fearful of being counted.

In September, Galvin visited the Big E to encourage Western Massachusetts residents to make sure they are counted, citing Springfield as an area of “particular concern.”

“During the last census, Springfield was on the cusp of losing millions in federal dollars if the official population of the city dipped below 150,000,” Galvin said in a Sept. 19 statement. “Our estimates indicate that the city’s population is hovering just above that number, and I want to make sure everyone gets counted and Western Massachusetts is not shortchanged by the federal government.”

Local reaction

Reminder Publishing asked a number of local election officials and clerks who monitor their population numbers what is happening in their communities.

  • Hampden – Town Clerk Eva Wiseman said that the figures from the town census are not particularly accurate since a great number of residents do not respond to the questionnaire. With that in mind, Wiseman reported that federal census information showed a decrease of just 32 people, from 5,171 in 2000 to 5,139 in 2010.

“If there’s a decline, we haven’t really noticed it,” said Wiseman.

  • Wilbraham – Wilbraham has   seen a slow increase of residents. In December 2019, the town was home to 14,672 people, up by 59 from Oct. 2018.

When Select Board Chair Susan Bunnell was asked why she believes the town is still growing, she said, “I believe Wilbraham continues to be an attractive community due to the quality of our schools, the strength of our financials, stability of local government – elected and volunteer – and the welcoming nature of our townspeople.”

  • West Springfield – Federal Census data shows that the town had 27,899 in 2000 and 28,391 in 2010, an increase of 492 residents over 10 years. The current number from the 2019 town census is 21,065 residents.

“That’s a considerable difference from the federal numbers because the town census is completely voluntary,” said Otto Frizzell, the town clerk in West Side. He cautioned not to draw comparisons between the town and federal census data because many people do not respond to the town census, whereas the federal tally is more compulsory.

  • East Longmeadow – Assistant to the Town Manager Jennifer Kerr explained that “The population number we just received from the Town Clerk's Office is 15,571,” which, she said was down from the previous number of 16,156.

“The slight decrease in the Town’s population does not raise concerns regarding any state funding levels for East Longmeadow,” Town Manager Mary McNally further explained.

  • Agawam – City Clerk Vincent F. Gioscia noted of Oct. 30, 2017, the population was 27,559; as of Nov. 6, 2018, the population was 27,793; and as of Nov. 5, 2019, the population was 26,914.
  • Chicopee – Registrar of Voters Janina Surdyka said, “In my opinion city population increased by at least few hundred residents, and possible much more as we see increase in number of registered voters (34,331 in 2010 and 36,838 in 2019) and also number of new residents listed on our Annual City Census.

“U.S. Census results determine how much funds the City will received for roads, schools, senior center, library, and various social programs. It is estimated that on the average for every person listed on the Census, Massachusetts will receive $2,372.00 per year for the next 10 years from Federal Government.   The City of Chicopee is very proactive to make sure that our census count accurate. In Fall of 2018 our GIS Director, Michelle Santerre, submitted 3,430 address changes and additions to the mailing list to be used by U.S. Census Bureau for mailing 2020 Census Questionnaires. In Fall of 2019 City submitted New Construction addresses. City organized Complete Count Committee with one clear purpose – ensuring the most accurate count of each and every resident of Chicopee during the 2020 US Census.

“From conduction Annual City Census we noticed increase in Chicopee population due to new constructions and “Climate Migration” – residents moved to join their family in Chicopee following natural disasters in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas.”

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