Slow Growth of Young Professional Population
Slow growth of young professional population could slow economic recovery in Mass.,
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston warns
By JIM KINNEY – MassLive.com – Thursday October 11, 2009
SPRINGFIELD – The population of young college-educated professionals is growing very slowly in Massachusetts, according to a report issued by the New England Public Policy Center, part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
And that slow growth could slow the growth of the region’s economy, warns the Boston Fed.
“You need people buying homes, you need people working and you need people with kids in the school system,” said Karen J. Buell, 27, who is Internet branch manger for PeoplesBank.
Buell is also vice president of Northampton Area Young Professionals, which along with a sister group, the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, works to give young professionals opportunities to make business and social connections.
A video developed by Western Massachusetts Economic Development Corp. will showcase the area to out-of-market professionals who might be considering a move, says 39-year-old Jeffrey I. Fialky, incoming president of the Greater Springfield group.
A lawyer with the firm of Bacon Wilson, Fialky moved back to Springfield five years ago after a decade in eastern Massachusetts. Quality of life, including an abundance of outdoor recreation, should be the Pioneer Valley’s selling point, he says.
“My commute went from an hour each way to less than 10 minutes,” Fialky said.
He believes the region needs to do a better job of selling itself and the job opportunities that exist here. The video is one step in that process.
Buell said she moved to the region because her husband is from Westfield and was working locally. She wishes more people knew about the volunteer and community-service opportunities in the region.
“Here you can have an impact compared to a larger, urban area,” Buell said. “You won’t feel like such a small fish in an enormous pond.”
Heather Brome, senior policy analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said there were 505,779 young professionals in Massachusetts in 2007, up just under 1.4 percent from the 498,803 counted in 2000. She didn’t have figures specific to Western Massachusetts.
Brome defined a young professional as someone between the ages of 25 and 39 with at least a bachelor’s degree but who is not currently enrolled in school. She used population estimates supplied by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Connecticut’s young professional population grew 0.245 percent from 224,887 in 2000 to 225,437 in 2007, Rhode Island’s grew 4.33 percent from 55,199 to 57,587, Maine’s grew 7.29 percent from 52,842 to 56,695 and Vermont’s grew 3.13 percent from 32,773 to 33,801.
In New Hampshire, which boasts low taxes, the population of young professionals grew 15 percent from 70,564 to 81,195.
Brome said one reason for slow growth is that with the baby boomer generation aging, young people simply make up a smaller and smaller segment of the population. Migration is also a factor.
“People are moving more than they used to,” Brome said. “And, this is an age when people want to go off.”
Brome said that 54.5 percent of the young professionals in Massachusetts were born in state while 21.9 percent were born elsewhere in the country and 23.6 percent were born abroad.