Population & Economic Growth

Smuttynose

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If you have followed GDP and population growth over the last 15-ish years, a pretty clear trend has emerged of Massachusetts, led by the Boston area, leading the New England region in economic growth. This has been really consistent in more recent years and Suffolk and Middlesex Counties have really dominated growth within the state. Maine and New Hampshire have consistently generated growth, but at a markedly lower pace. Vermont and Rhode Island average slightly below ME and NH. Connecticut has really struggled, barely generating much growth at all. Mass. also lead the New England region in population growth in the last Census. NH was second but not really close to the growth rate in Mass (+4.6% in NH and +7.4% in Mass).

The most recent GDP and population estimate figures - showing GDP growth between 2018 and 2021 and estimated population growth between 2020 and 2022, show a departure in that Maine and NH are consistently leading Massachusetts. For GDP growth, NH and Maine are really strong (among the country's top 10 states). Mass ranks decently nationally at #16 but the growth rate is markedly lower. In terms of population, the Census estimates that Mass. is losing people, placing it among the 10 worst performing states. I would caution that these are population estimates and the Census Bureau has a checkered past estimating them.

Larger questions - Are Maine and NH benefiting from people leaving the Boston metro? Is this just a temporary post-COVID blip (the GDP numbers are heavily influenced by 2020 and 2021) or the start of a longer term trend? Interested in anybody's thoughts.

I've copied the states ranks below and where all the New England states rank

GDP growth 2018-2021 https://www.bea.gov/sites/default/files/2022-12/lagdp1222.pdf

1.) 13.5% Utah
2.) 13.0% Idaho
3.) 11.7% Washington (state)
4.) 10.4% Arizona
5.) 10.0% New Hampshire
6.) 9.5% Maine

7.) 9.3% Florida
8.) 9.1% Colorado
9.) 8.9% Tennessee
10.) 8.7% California
11.) 8.0% North Carolina
12.) 7.0% South Dakota
13.) 6.8% Georgia p
14.) 6.7% South Carolina
15.) 6.4% Arkansas
16.) 6.3% Massachusetts
17.) 6.1% Oregon
18.) 6.0% Nevada
19.) 5.7% Virginia
20.) 5.3% Kentucky
21.) 5.2% Ohio
22.) 5.1% Montana
23.) 5.0% Texas
24.) 4.9% Delaware
25.) 4.8% Alabama
26.) 4.6% Nebraska
27.) 3.9% Missouri
28.) 3.9% Rhode Island
29.) 3.9% New York
30.) 3.6% Iowa
31.) 3.5% Mississippi
32.) 3.3% Michigan
33.) 3.2% Vermont
34.) 3.1% New Jersey
35.) 3.0% New Mexico
36.) 2.9% Indiana
37.) 2.8% Minnesota
38.) 2.7% Washington, DC
39.) 2.5% Wisconsin
40.) 2.2% Kansas
41.) 1.1% Illinois
42.) 1.0% Pennsylvania
43.) 0.2% Maryland
44.) -1.0% Connecticut
45.) -2.1% Oklahoma
46.) -2.5% West Virginia
47.) -3.8% North Dakota
48.) -4.4% Wyoming
49.) -4.6% Alaska
50.) -6.6% Hawaii
51.) -6.8% Louisiana

Estimated Population Change, 2020-2022 https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/popest/2020s-state-total.html
1.) 5.4% Idaho
2.) 3.6% Montana
3.) 3.3% Utah
4.) 3.3% Florida
5.) 3.2% South Carolina
6.) 3.0% Texas
7.) 2.9% Arizona
8.) 2.9% Delaware
9.) 2.6% South Dakota
10.) 2.5% North Carolina
11.) 2.4% Nevada
12.) 2.0% Tennessee
13.) 1.9% Georgia
14.) 1.7% Maine
15.) 1.5% Oklahoma
16.) 1.3% New Hampshire
17.) 1.1% Colorado
18.) 1.1% Arkansas
19.) 1.0% Washington
21.) 1.0% Alabama
2`.) 0.8% Wyoming
21.) 0.7% Indiana
23.) 0.6% Vermont
24.) 0.6% Virginia
25.) 0.6% Connecticut
26,) 0.4% Missouri
27.) 0.3% Nebraska
28.) 0.3% Iowa
29.) 0.2% Minnesota
30.) 0.1% Kentucky
31.) 0.1% Oregon
32.) 0.0% Alaska
33.) 0.0% North Dakota
34.) 0.0% Wisconsin
35.) 0.0% Kansas
36.) -0.2% Maryland
37.) -0.2% New Mexico
38.) -0.2% Pennsylvania
39.) -0.3% New Jersey
40.) -0.3% Rhode Island
41.) -0.4% Ohio
42.) -0.4% Michigan
43.) -0.7% Massachusetts
44.) -0.7% Mississippi
45.) -1.0% Hawaii
46.) -1.0% West Virginia
47.) -1.3% California
48.) -1.4% Louisiana
49.) -1.8% Illinois
50.) -2.6% New York
51.) -2.6% Washington, DC
 

KentXie

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Possibly a longer term "flattening of income" trend if it's people remoting from Maine and working for a Massachusetts firm. Doesn't even have to be a transplant. A lot of companies have open up to hiring remotely as it gives them access to a larger and more diverse labor pool. This also makes higher paying job more accessible in areas that traditionally do not have those job (like a job at a Fortune 500 bank in Bangor, Maine) so the larger % increase may be skewed by what used to be places where they only had lower paying jobs.
 

Brandeisian

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I recently joined a big-law firm in Boston. I expected to be in the office a lot more, but the firm saw big improvements in the lateral market by offering generous wfh options. I’m in the office two days a week and only need to be in one.

I chose Somerville for lifestyle, but Wfh had an effect on many colleagues. One got a run down place in Malden for 2 days a week but otherwise lives in Vermont. Another moved to southern Maine. On the more local scale, some moved out to Watertown/Waltham or up into Salem. This is an industry with serious enough hours that people often lived walking distance to the office in the before times. So it’s a dramatic change.

My reference point on this has been NY firms where they are a bit stricter on wfh. Key difference: many NY partners lived in nice penthouses in trendy neighborhoods downtown. Partners in Boston tend to live in wealthy suburbs (Sudbury, Lexington, Wellesley, etc.). When the bosses’ commute sucks they tend to like wfh a bit more.

Anecdotes are the weakest form of evidence, but that’s what I’m seeing.
 

#bancars

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I recently joined a big-law firm in Boston. I expected to be in the office a lot more, but the firm saw big improvements in the lateral market by offering generous wfh options. I’m in the office two days a week and only need to be in one.

I chose Somerville for lifestyle, but Wfh had an effect on many colleagues. One got a run down place in Malden for 2 days a week but otherwise lives in Vermont. Another moved to southern Maine. On the more local scale, some moved out to Watertown/Waltham or up into Salem. This is an industry with serious enough hours that people often lived walking distance to the office in the before times. So it’s a dramatic change.

My reference point on this has been NY firms where they are a bit stricter on wfh. Key difference: many NY partners lived in nice penthouses in trendy neighborhoods downtown. Partners in Boston tend to live in wealthy suburbs (Sudbury, Lexington, Wellesley, etc.). When the bosses’ commute sucks they tend to like wfh a bit more.

Anecdotes are the weakest form of evidence, but that’s what I’m seeing.
Interesting perspectives! I also work in big law in Boston, although my firm is slightly less flexible on WFH than yours from the sound of it. Anecdotally, there definitely were a few COVID-related moves to the burbs during the pandemic, but most of my practice group (including partners) still live within the city of Boston or one of the more urban suburbs (e.g. Camberville, Brookline).
 

dshoost88

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Larger questions - Are Maine and NH benefiting from people leaving the Boston metro? Is this just a temporary post-COVID blip (the GDP numbers are heavily influenced by 2020 and 2021) or the start of a longer term trend? Interested in anybody's thoughts.
Yes, Maine and NH are benefiting from people leaving the Boston metro... although to be clear, Southern NH is not only the high growth area for that state but also technically knit with the Boston metro area... so it's not as though people are leaving the Boston metro area in that case, just moving further out from center.

The pandemic and adoption of work-from-home definitely accelerated moves to Maine and NH; however, I don't see it as a longer term trend. As long as MA employers continue to innovate, draw multidisciplinary talent, and grow, MA will continue to grow at a pace ahead of other New England states. The thorn in our side is housing generation, and we're on a precipice of policy changes right now that will address that over the next generation. Simply put, Massachusetts possesses the financial mechanisms (high volume of high earning households + state income tax) to invest in making the Commonwealth a richer place for all, which will continue to make it attractive for new residents, employment growth, and an age-friendly place to settle down. NH has an absence of state income tax and sales tax... this translates to much higher property taxes than the average MA resident pays, and in turn a scarcity of services/resources one will find/expect in other states like MA. The retirement of baby boomers coupled with the scarcity of educated labor force to work at livable wages in essential services like nursing, public works, education, police, and more paint a grim picture for the quality of life for NH compared to its neighbors.

Those are some of my thoughts, anyway. I have plenty more on this topic. ;)
 

bigpicture7

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^The interesting question, to me, is how much of what we're seeing was a transient exogenous effect due to the pandemic suddenly hitting, versus what will be the steady-state effect going forward. It is very hard to know how much of the population change effect falls into which category. Since we are in the space here of theorizing, I will offer that I believe there was some amount of latent, pent-up yet unsatisfied demand for suburban, family-friendly-esque housing among 30-somethings-with-kids during the pre-pandemic realm of "less flexible" work that we saw manifest into urban core flight the early days of the pandemic. Many people were under the strain of not being able to reconcile raising kids with two career parents while fitting in the 5day/wk commute, and possibility of WFH was like a pressure release valve going off. I empathize with that pressure (despite generally disagreeing about whether one can raise kids in a city). So I believe we can account for some of this shift with this effect, as dshoost points out with regard to the So.NH trend. However, companies adding to their staff via distant remote contributors who never lived here in the first place does not contribute toward this effect (they wouldn't have been counted as MA residents to begin with). Further, it remains to be seen what percentage of future new hires will be full-remote-only, versus hybrid. This distinction has big implications for population trends. While, sure, few white collar workers will do 5 days in-office going forward, the number of full-remote-only postings has dropped significantly since 2021; and, even if in-office time expectations are minimal, there's a huge difference between zero and small amount of in-office time when it comes to population trends. It's pretty much no question that people greatly value flexibility and not needing to follow a rigid in-office schedule, but (now speaking anecdotally on my part) while it's universal that most of my coworkers hate coming into the office often, I am honestly surprised at how many of them come in at least once or twice a week more than they're obliged to (we have one anchor day). I work in an innovative office in an innovative area, and, low and behold, even the suburban-oriented, family-raising, commute-haters among us see something special about being socially part of this community (on their own terms/schedule). While a couple of coworkers have aquired a second home or switched primary residences, none that I know of, actually, have taken drastic steps of fleeing the area. I do not mean at all to imply that my colleagues represent a larger trend, rather, I am actually just surprised at the extent they've stuck around.

The theorizing point of my long paragraph above: the -0.7% we saw following the exogenous shock of the pandemic was, IMO, part pent-up/latent and part enduring trend. So I do not think we will see a drop of that magnitude for future two-year cycles because the pent-up part has been relieved. And in the counter-direction, a good number of people, even if not obliged, want live in/close-to the community here for career-related and other reasons. So I think the pandemic-induced workplace changes will certainly have an effect, but not one that reflects the first two years.

...we're on a precipice of policy changes right now that will address that over the next generation...
^And then this is what will make all the difference. While I think the -0.7% per years was a low point, how much higher (and/or) in the positive direction it goes will depend a lot on housing and associated policy. While people may want to be around here / live here, there's only so much price and difficulty (ahhhemmm, I'm talking about you, MBTA) people will tolerate, and understandably so.
 

Brandeisian

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I think the point of agreement here is the middle ground reality: permanent wfh isn’t going to be the dominant thing but five days a week in the office is also dead. Many professionals seem to be trending to a 3 days a week in the office thinking.

I think this will expand our definitions of regional economies, increasing the relevance of the combined statistical area which has generally been an afterthought compared to normal MSA figures. That means regional planning is ever more important and medium distance/regional rail becomes even more important. In this universe the coastal plain from Providence up to Portland should aspire to be a more interconnected region like the Bay or Tri-state. I already found it funny that Stanford is very closely associated with SF but Brown isn’t as closely associated with Boston despite the latter only being a handful of more miles distant.
 

jklo

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I think this will expand our definitions of regional economies, increasing the relevance of the combined statistical area which has generally been an afterthought compared to normal MSA figures. That means regional planning is ever more important and medium distance/regional rail becomes even more important. In this universe the coastal plain from Providence up to Portland should aspire to be a more interconnected region like the Bay or Tri-state. I already found it funny that Stanford is very closely associated with SF but Brown isn’t as closely associated with Boston despite the latter only being a handful of more miles distant.
It's not exactly in MA's best interest to encourage people to move to NH and Maine because they want cheaper SFH.
 

North Street

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For what it’s worth. I commuted to Boston’s financial district for 13 years and I loved it. I did work from home at one time and found it boring. The only companionship I had was our family cat lol.
 

Charlie_mta

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For what it’s worth. I commuted to Boston’s financial district for 13 years and I loved it. I did work from home at one time and found it boring. The only companionship I had was our family cat lol.
I hated working from home. I'd much rather be in an office directly relating to people in person.
 

KriterionBOS

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Eh I disagree, theres more construction going on right now throughout the city and all of its surrounding neighborhoods than at any point I can remember throughout the cycle and whereas before most of the construction was labs/offices/luxury housing around downtown, now there is finally a huge amount of market rate units being built everywhere you look. It fiiiinally feels like something is being done about the housing crisis and that is exciting.
Boston and almost every other major city in the US has been shrinking in population since the pandemic. Some core cities have shrunk slightly, but its offset by the continued growth of their suburbs. Are the immediate Boston suburbs growing in population or are they shrinking too?
 

gac108

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Boston and almost every other major city in the US has been shrinking in population since the pandemic. Some core cities have shrunk slightly, but its offset by the continued growth of their suburbs. Are the immediate Boston suburbs growing in population or are they shrinking too?
Boston and the greater Boston area are steadily increasing in population and have been for the last 15 years. It is predicted that with the massive amount of bioscience and other tech companies moving into the area and the completion of the tremendous amount of housing and new neighborhoods being built, that the population in and around the city will have a historic jump in the next 5 years. Proportionally, Boston (area) is/will be growing at a greater rate than New York City, Chicago, LA and most other of the largest American cities.
 

Nibbles O’Plenty

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Boston has had a population decline in the past few years…and the metro population has as well…though not quite as dramatically. Phoenix knocked Boston out as tenth largest metro area…which is actually quite a big deal…and now Tennessee has moved ahead of Massachusetts as the state population declines. This trend will accelerate even more rapidly in years to come.
 

Nibbles O’Plenty

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Boston and almost every other major city in the US has been shrinking in population since the pandemic. Some core cities have shrunk slightly, but its offset by the continued growth of their suburbs. Are the immediate Boston suburbs growing in population or are they shrinking too?
They are a bit more stable than the city. Depends on the suburb though.
 

gac108

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Boston has had a population decline in the past few years…and the metro population has as well…though not quite as dramatically. Phoenix knocked Boston out as tenth largest metro area…which is actually quite a big deal…and now Tennessee has moved ahead of Massachusetts as the state population declines. This trend will accelerate even more rapidly in years to come.
Where did you get this data from?? It's almost the exact opposite of what I've read.
 

gac108

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Boston has had a population decline in the past few years…and the metro population has as well…though not quite as dramatically. Phoenix knocked Boston out as tenth largest metro area…which is actually quite a big deal…and now Tennessee has moved ahead of Massachusetts as the state population declines. This trend will accelerate even more rapidly in years to come.
There's this: https://www.universalhub.com/2019/boston-keeps-growing-population-could-reach-760000
and this: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/220130679.pdf
and many others that all show steady increases and predicted sharp increases over the next 5-10 years.
 

Nibbles O’Plenty

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curcuas

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The census projections were terrible when compared to the actuals in 2020 for most old, large cities esp in the Northeast. I wouldn't trust them as they've been claiming declines since 2018 and we know the first couple years of that at least didn't happen
 

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