Monday, May 01, 2017

Report shows that rural Western Mass. is older, poorer, less educated than rural Eastern Mass.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention graphic
There's a rural-rural divide in Massachusetts. Data released on Friday by the state's Rural Policy Advisory Commission shows that rural areas in the western part of the state tend to be poorer, older and less educated than rural areas in the eastern part of the state, Shira Schoenberg reports for MassLive. Western towns also are losing population faster than those in the east. Massachusetts has 170 towns that are considered rural, many of them located in the western half of the state.

"The population of rural towns is growing slightly faster in rural communities than in the state overall -5 percent compared to 3 percent," Schoenberg writes. "However, most of the places where the population is declining are rural towns in Western Massachusetts. While the age of the population is similar between rural towns overall and statewide, rural towns in the west have fewer children and more seniors than the state average. Median income as well as home values are lower in the western rural towns than in the rest of the state. There are some exceptions, such as the southern Berkshires, which have a large population of second homes that drive up housing prices."

Data also found that rural residents in the western part of the state face more barriers than those in the east, such as a lack of broadband, public transportation or water and sewer infrastructure, Schoenberg writes. "Areas in the northwestern part of the state are most likely to be classified as being in 'economic distress.'"

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