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Daily Hampshire Gazette/ Greenfield Recorder: Aging population in western Massachusetts concerns local officials

Susan Strate, manager of the Population Estimates Program in the Economic and Public Policy Research (EPPR) group at the UMass Donahue Institute, was quoted in an article appearing in both the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Greenfield Recorder that covered a meeting of Hampshire and Franklin Select Boards, where discussion centered on the projected population shift that will alter the demographics of the region and threaten its economic viability.

According to the recent release tof the study, “Long Term Population Projections for Massachusetts Regions and Municipalities,” the over-65 population here is projected to more than double, from 15.2 percent in 2010 to nearly 31.5 percent in 2030, while the under-20 population is estimated to shrink from 22 percent in 2010 to 17 percent in 2030. The population segment between ages 25 and 54, now seen as the key working-age cohort, shows a decrease from 40 percent in 2010 to 32.6 percent in 2030.

Strate, who co-authored the study, cautioned that the detailed population projection does not take into account transportation developments such as expanded rail service, economy-focused initiatives such as broadband extension, housing markets, college enrollment levels or national immigration policy changes or migration shifts.

Pioneer Valley Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Timothy Brennan said that reliable, high-speed rail “can be a game changer,” so that the workforce across a much wider region can better take advantage of the cost of living in western Massachusetts, but also because fewer young people are getting a driver’s license.

“Providing an alternative, a rail option, is very attractive to young folks, particularly if they can connect to bright-lights areas like Boston and New York and places beyond,” he said. “It depends on what we all do collectively to change the trajectory of where we’re all headed.”

Read article: Aging population in western Massachusetts concerns local officials

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