Immigration Facts
Summary Demographic State Data (and Source)
Population (2012 CB est.) 6,646,144
Population (2000 CB est.) 6,349,097
Foreign-Born Population (2012 CB est.) 995,692
Foreign-Born Population (2000 CB est.) 772,983
Share Foreign-Born (2012) 15.0 %
Share Foreign-Born (2000) 11.7%
Naturalized U.S. Citizens (2012 CB est.): 510,210
Share Naturalized (2012) 51.2 %
Legal Immigrant Admission (DHS 2001 – 2012) 302,836
Refugee Admission (HHS 2000 – 2012) 29,956
Illegal Alien Population (2010 FAIR est.) 190,000
Costs of Illegal Aliens (2009 FAIR) $1,862,234,327
Projected 2050 Population (2006 FAIR) 11,111,000

State Population

According to the Census Bureau, the population of Massachusetts in 2012 was 6,646,144 residents.

Between 2000 (population 6,349,097) and 2012, the state's average annual population change was 24,249 residents. That was an annual average change of 0.4 percent. The comparable national annual rate of change was 0.9 percent.

Between 1990 (population 6,016,425) and 2000, the state's annual average population change was 33,267 residents. The annual average rate of change was 0.5 percent compared to the national rate of change of 1.2 percent.

Foreign-Born Population

According to the Census Bureau the foreign-born population of Massachusetts was about 995,692 persons in 2012. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 15.0 percent. The chart above shows the long-term change in the state's foreign-born population based on Census Bureau data.

Foreign-Born Change

Between 2000 and 2012 the Census Bureau estimate indicates an average annual rate of change in the foreign-born population of about 18,180 people, compared to the state's annual average population change of about 24,249  people. That is a 75.0  percent share of the state's population change (not including the children born in the United States to illegal aliens). The foreign-born population grew by 28.8 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Immigration also contributes to population growth through the U.S.-born children of immigrants. Nationally the share of births to the foreign-born is about double their share of the population. A 30.0 percent share of the state's current births is large enough to account for about 22,290 births a year. Combining the average increase in the foreign-born population and estimated immigrant births suggests that immigration may account for about 40,470 persons added to the state's population annually, i.e., nearly 167.0 percent of the state's overall population increase.

As of 2012 about 48.0 percent of Massachusetts's foreign-born population had arrived in the state since 2000. This compares with the national average 40.9 percent. In 2000, 40.4 percent of the state's foreign-born population that had arrived since the previous Census.

Foreign-Born Characteristics

An indicator of the change in Massachusetts's immigrant population may be seen in data on the share of the population over five years of age that speaks a language other than English at home. Between 2000 and 2012, the share of non-English speakers changed from 18.7 percent to 22.3 percent. In 2000, 41.2 percent of those persons in also said they spoke English less than very well. In the 2012 estimate, the share was 39.9 percent that spoke English less than very well. In 2012 Spanish speakers were 37.5 percent of those who spoke other than English at home, and 38.8 percent of those who spoke English less than very well.

The chart above shows the regional composition of the state's foreign-born population and how it has changed from between 2000 and 2012.


Census Bureau data in 2012 indicate that 510,210 residents of Massachusetts, or 51.2 percent of the foreign-born population in Massachusetts, were naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 337,617 residents, or 43.7 percent, in 2000.

Nationally, 40.3 percent of the foreign-born population was naturalized in 2000, and 45.8 percent in 2012.

Net International Migration (NIM)

Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Census Bureau estimated that between 2000 and 2012, the change in Massachusetts's population resulting from net international migration has been about 55,965 people. It was 79.7 percent of total change (not including the children born to the immigrants after their arrival in the United States). 1   The remainder was due to net domestic migration and natural change (births minus deaths).


  1. A negative percentage results when there was an overall population decrease. A percentage greater than 100 percent results when domestic migration is negative, i.e, a net loss from interstate migration.

Immigrant Admissions

Recent "green card" recipients who intend to reside in Massachusetts were 90 percent above admissions just after adoption of the current immigration system in 1965. During the 1965 to 1969 period, annual admissions averaged about 16,641 persons. During the most recent five years, annual admissions averaged about 31,535 persons. Immigrant admissions data are from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

The chart above shows recent immigrant admissions and the cumulative amount of immigrant admissions since FY'65. The cumulative total of immigrant admissions to Massachusetts between fiscal years 1965 and 2012 has been 992,509 persons.

The data for fiscal years 1989-91 were artificially raised by the inclusion of former illegal aliens who were amnestied in 1986. According to INS data (1991) the number of amnesty applicants from Massachusetts was 18,128 (9,859 pre-1982 residents and 8,269 agricultural workers). These data were published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and reported in "Report on the Legalized Alien Population," March 1992.

Admissions by Nationality: FY'96 - FY'05

The table below furnishes INS data by nationality on the immigrants who were admitted for residence in Massachusetts between 1996 and 2005.

The INS data are for nationals of the countries with the largest number of immigrants admitted or adjusted to legal residence each year since 1996. The absence of data means that the total number of admissions to the United States by nationals of that country was not enough to merit detailed reporting in that year.

The Department of Homeland Security website has detailed data on immigrant admissions since FY'03 by year and by source country and intended state of residence. (See then select the desired year, click Legal Permanent Residents, data and then select "supplemental table 1."

Chart of Immigrant Admission by Fiscal Year


Massachusetts has received 29,956 refugees over the most recent ten fiscal years including 1,541 refugees in fiscal year 2012. The chart above shows the annual admissions over the last ten years and the cumulative total of those admissions using data complied by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government program that distributes new refugees among the states is the only immigration program that provides state governments the opportunity to participate in deciding how many newcomers will come to that state each year.

Illegal Aliens

Massachusetts Fiscal Costs
Due to Illegal Aliens
           ($M) (Pct.)
K-12 educ. $839.30 45.1%
LEP educ. $168.80 9.1%
Medicaid+ $144.00 7.7%
SCHIP $71.10 3.8%
Justice $152.10 8.2%
Welfare+ $174.50 9.4%
General $312.40 16.8%
Total $1,862.20  
Tax receipts $66.00  
Net Cost $1,796.20  
Source: "The State Cost Studies"

FAIR Estimate - FAIR estimates the illegal alien population of Massachusetts as of 2010 was about 190,000 persons. This is part of an overall estimate of the U.S. illegal alien population of about 11,900,000 persons.

DHS Estimate - The current estimate by DHS of the illegal alien population in Massachusetts was n/a in 2012. The DHS estimate is available for only the 10 states with the largest illegal alien populations. The DHS estimate of the national illegal alien population in 2012 was 11,430,000.

Other Estimates - The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the illegal alien population of the state at 160,000 as of 2010.

Fiscal Cost of Illegal Aliens

FAIR's most recent estimate of the cost outlays due to illegal immigration and tax receipts from illegal aliens in Massachusetts are as shown on the right:

Limited English Proficiency Students

Data are not available nationally on immigrant students (either legally or illegally resident in the United States) who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools (K-12). However, a large majority of these students enrolled in Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learning (LEP/ELL) instruction programs may be assumed to be children of either legal or illegal immigrants with a predominance of children of illegal aliens.

In Massachusetts, LEP public school enrollment in 2010 ( 58,174) was 129.1 percent of LEP enrollment a decade earlier. By contrast, overall K-12 enrollment in the state was 98.5 percent of enrollment a decade earlier.

Population Projection

FAIR projected Massachusetts's population in 2050 likely would be between 10,699,000 million and 11,111,000 million with current levels of immigration. Alternatively, the population could be lower (9,010,000) if immigration were reduced to a level where it balanced the number of U.S. residents leaving to reside outside of the United states, i.e., zero-net immigration. See "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050: Four Immigration Scenarios," FAIR 2006.

Foreign Students

Data compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE) record the number of foreign students attending post-secondary school in Massachusetts as 46,486 in 2013.

The chart above illustrates the change in the number of foreign students attending school in Massachusetts since 1997.

For information on foreign student issues see: Foreign Students in the United States.

Immigration Impact

Sanctuary Policies

City or County


Amicus Brief (March 23, 2012)

  • “The Boston joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.


Town Resolution (November 25, 2003)

  • “The Boston joined an amicus curiae brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070.


Special Town Meeting Warrant, Article 26 (November 14, 2006)

  • Reaffirms Brookline’s commitment to being a Sanctuary Town (Originally designated as a Sanctuary Town in November 1985, when the City passed a resolution which stated that the departments and employees of the town would not officially assist or voluntarily cooperate with investigations or arrest procedures relating to alleged violations of immigration law), expanding it to include individuals from all countries
  • Rejects “the use of the word ‘illegal’ to describe human beings and the use of the word ‘aliens’ to describe immigrants, and hereby adopts the language ‘undocumented’ when referring to those who do not have federally recognized resident status and ‘immigrant’ to refer to those who have migrated to the US from another country.”


Policy Order Resolution No. O-16 (May 8, 2006)

  • “Cambridge has a proud history as a Sanctuary city, as declared by City Council Order Number 4 of April 8, 1985.”


Resolution (June 4, 2007)

  • “The City of Chelsea goes on record as a Sanctuary City….”


Community Resolution (July 14, 2005)

  • “…Lexington Town Meeting: Request that the Board of Selectmen require the Town Manager to direct the Police Department to refrain from enforcing immigration matters, which are the responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security; and from denying any town service on the basis of citizenship.…”

Environmental and Quality of Life Profile

Water: Between 2000 and 2006, Massachusetts' foreign-born population increased by 17.5 percent.1 That compares with a 0.8 percent decrease in the native-born population and that includes the children born to immigrants. When the U.S-born children of immigrants are included, immigration accounts for all of the state's overall growth during that time.2 By 2050 the state's population is expected to rise from 6.4 million in 2006 to over 11.1 million.3 Massachusetts has a daily, per-capita water demand of 139.5 gallons.4 This means that by 2050 public water usage will have increased by 655.7 million gallons each day

Traffic: As population growth put more traffic on the roads, the average commute for Massachusetts residents increased 19 percent during the 1990s, from 23 minutes to 27 minutes in 2000 (versus a national average of 14 percent). 5,6 31 percent of Massachusetts's major urban roads are congested. 71 percent of Massachusetts's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition and vehicle travel on Massachusetts' highways increased 16% from 1990 to 2003. 7

Driving on roads in need of repair costs Massachusetts motorists $2.3 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs — $501 per motorist. Congestion in the Boston metropolitan area costs commuters $958 per person per year in excess fuel and lost time, and congestion in the Springfield area costs commuters $163 per person per year in excess fuel and lost time.8 Travelers in the Providence, MA-Rhode Island area experience an annual delay of 33 hours. 9 19 percent of commuters in Massachusetts have a commute that is 45 minutes or more. 10

Boston is already the country's seventh most congested city, and traffic continues to worsen. Congestion costs each Boston motorist three days and $1,255 each year. Rush hour lasts for four hours every morning and every evening, costing the average commuter 107 gallons of wasted gas every year.11

Disappearing open space: Each year, Massachusetts loses 42,400 acres of open space and farmland due to development.12 In 1970, just 22 percent of the land in the 43 communities in the I-495 area was developed, but by 1999, 60 percent of the area's land had been developed.13

A study of urban sprawl between 1970 and 1990 that calculated the impact of population increase and per capita land use found that 226.8 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the Boston metropolitan area, and 15.4 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase. In the Worchester, MA - Connecticut metro areas sprawl consumed an additional 54.3 square miles and population increase accounted for 49 percent of the increase.14

Crowded housing: In 2005 over 37,000 Massachusetts households were defined as crowded or severely crowded by housing authorities.15 Studies show that a rise in crowded housing often correlates with an increase in the number of foreign-born.16,17

Poverty: In 2005 13.9 percent of immigrants in Massachusetts had incomes below the poverty level, a 15.1 increase since 2000. Among non-citizens, the rate climbs to 17 percent.18

Education: Between 1990 and 2000, Massachusetts's elementary and high school enrollment increased 20 percent.19 "The thing that's been impacted the most by the increase in population is our school system, which is now overcrowded," said James Nihan, clerk of Bridgewater's Board of Selectmen. Bridgewater is trying to raise $76 million to build an additional high school and is considering enlarging its middle and elementary schools to accommodate the rising student population—despite having just built a new elementary school in 1999.20

In Westborough, where the population increased 27 percent in the 1990s, school enrollment rose by 59 percent in the last ten years and is expected to increase 83 percent more in the next decade. More students has meant higher taxes; the average single-family property tax bill has increased 31 percent since 1995.21

In Holden, some high school students are bused to another school for study hall to ease the high school enrollment crunch.22

Solid Waste: Massachusetts generates 1.29 tons of solid waste per capita. 23

Air Qaulity: 9 of Massachusetts's 14 counties received a grade of "F" from the American Lung Association in their "State of the Air 2005" report. 24


  1. U.S. Census Bureau 2006.
  2. Jack Martin. "Issue Brief: Estimation of Foreign Born Birthrate." FAIR. 2008.
  3. Jack Martin and Stanley Fogel. "Projecting the U.S. Population to 2050." FAIR. March 2006.
  4. U.S. Geological Survey 2000
  5. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000," Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau.
  6. "Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990," 1990 Census, U.S. Census Bureau.
  7. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  8. Ibid
  9. "The 2005 Urban Mobility Report", Texas Transportation Institute.
  10. "U.S. Population 2007 Data Sheet," Population Reference Bureau.
  11. Karen E. Crummy, "Time for a Tailgate Party: Gridlocked Hub Makes Top 10," Boston Herald, June 21, 2002.
  12. "State Rankings by Acreage and Rate of Non-federal Land Developed," Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  13. John J. Monahan, "Growth Could Outpace Stat's Water Resources," Worcester Telegram & Gazette, October 13, 2002.
  14. Beck, Roy and Leon Kolankiewicz, "Weighing Sprawl Factors in Large U.S. Cities," NumbersUSA, March 2001.
  15. Selected Housing Characteristics: 2005 Data Set - 2005 American Community Survey, American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau.
  16. Haya El Nasser, "U.S. Neighborhoods Grow More Crowded," USA Today, July 7, 2002.
  17. Randy Capps, "Hardship Among Children of Immigrants: Findings from the 1999 National Survey of America's Families," Urban Institute, 2001.
  18. "Massachusetts State Factsheet," Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute.
  19. Table DP-1-4, Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 1990 and 2000, Census 2000, U.S. Census Bureau.
  20. Teri Borseti, "Bridgewater's Growing, So Schools Must Too," Boston Globe, April 6, 2002.
  21. Teri Borseti, "Bridgewater's Growing, So Schools Must Too," Boston Globe, April 6, 2002.
  22. Peter Schworm, "Child Influx Packs Schools in Four Towns Surging Demand Means Higher Bills for Taxpayers," Boston Globe, June 30, 2002.
  23. Report Card for America's Infrastructure 2005," American Society of Civil Engineers.
  24. "State of the Air 2005: Massachusetts", American Lung Association.


Other Resources  

State Local Reform Organizations

State Representatives Voting Record


Updated December 2011