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As Pittsfield, Mass., Continues To Lose Population, It's Losing Much Less Than In Years Past

The latest U.S. census data shows the population is continuing to decline in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and in Berkshire County overall. But the decline is slowing — and diversity is increasing.

In years past, Pittsfield's population took a big hit: a drop of nearly 20% from 1970 until 2000. Much of that is attributed to General Electric leaving the region, once the city's big employer.

But now the drop in population is smaller. It's a decline of less than 2% over the last decade. Berkshire County follows a similar pattern.

Susan Strate from the UMass Donahue Institute said that at the same time, the percentage of people in Pittsfield who are Hispanic or identify as being of two races bumped up. And to a lesser degree, the Black or African American populations also increased in Pittsfield.

"This may bode well for future population growth in the city," Strate said. "What we've seen around the nation — and throughout the state, even — is that places with larger Hispanic populations and more diverse populations tend to grow more quickly."

The Hispanic population in the 2010 census was 5%. Now it's up to 8.1% of the total population.

"It's a definite and substantial increase, in terms of how much of that population is diverse," Strate said.

Statewide in Massachusetts, the population increased by 7.4% since the last census, making it the fastest-growing state in the Northeast. The white population in the state shrank over the past 10 years while that of most racial minorities grew, continuing long-running demographic shifts in both Massachusetts, which historically has been whiter than the rest of the country, and in the United States as a whole.

The Bay State had about 235,000 more white residents in 2010 than it did in 2020, and the white share of the population dropped in that span from more than three-quarters to nearly two-thirds.

Over the same period, the statewide Black share of the population increased from about 6% to 6.5%, the Hispanic or Latino share grew from 9.6% to 12.6%, and the share identifying as Asian rose from 5.3% to about 7.2%.

The shifting racial makeup of the state could factor heavily into redistricting decisions that lawmakers will make in the coming months as they embark on the once-every-decade process of redrawing state legislative, congressional and Governor’s Council boundaries.

Material from State House News Service appears in this report.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Previously she served as the editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub, a collaborative of public radio stations. Earlier in her career she was the Midwest editor for NPR in Washington, D.C. Before working in radio, she recorded sound as part of a camera crew for network television news, with assignments in Russia, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba and in Sarajevo during the war in 1992.
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