Massachusetts was one of the original 13 colonies and is one of the six New England states. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is bordered by Vermont in the north, New Hampshire to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast, Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, and New York to the west.
Massachusetts has more than 100 public beaches, over 10 protected areas and forests, and dozens of parks that are open to the public. The Appalachian Trail stretches across Massachusetts from south to north, passing through several state forests. Massachusetts also boasts a number of lakes and reservoirs which make it a popular spot for recreational activities like fishing, swimming, kayaking and hiking. Let’s dive into more Massachusetts geography!
Size and Position
Massachusetts is located in the northeastern U.S., is the 4th largest of the six New England states, and ranks 45th in size among the 50 states.
The state has a peninsula, known as the Cape Cod peninsula where two islands lie south of the fishhook-shaped Cape: Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. There are several other islands off the coast of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Landscape and Climate
Massachusetts has a humid continental climate with warm summers and cold, snowy winters. It receives about 40 inches of rain annually, which is fairly distributed throughout the year with a slightly wetter winter.
The middle of the state has streams and plains with gentle hills. In the west, the land rises into mountains, where one can find a popular spot for fall-leaf watching called the Berkshires. In the far west are the Taconic Mountains.
Massachusetts People and Population
The population of Massachusetts is estimated at 6.89 million people, making it the 14th most populous state in America. It has one of the highest concentrations of higher education institutions in the United States with over 60 accredited universities and colleges.
Massachusetts is made up of diverse cultures from all around the world. This diversity can be attributed to the large number of immigrants that come to the state each year for work, education, and business.
Per the 2022 Census, in New Jersey, the larger portions of the population are showing to be under 18 at 19.2% of the population and closely followed by 65 and over at 18.1%. The average age in Massachusetts is 39 years and 6 months.
The gender in Indiana is pretty evenly split with 51% reporting as identifying female and 49% reporting as identifying male.
Massachusetts has a strong Caucasian population (79.4%), followed by an African American/Black population (9.5%), and a Latino/Hispanic (13.1%) presence.
Religion in Massachusetts has a majority of Christian affiliations with 58% of the population identifying as a subgroup under Christianity. 9% reported being non-Christian (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc), and a higher percentage reported no affiliation at all with 32%.
The average household income in Massachusetts as of 2021 was reported at $89,026. In 2021 20.4% of the Bay State was living below the poverty line.
Massachusetts currently ranks #2 in the United States for K-12 education with an 89% graduation rate for high school.
The Bay State’s higher education ranks 32nd in the country with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University both in Cambridge, and Tufts University in Medford as the top-ranking universities in the state. There are a total of 82 colleges and universities in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts has a large immigrant population of almost 1.17 million. As of 2020, 92.3% of Massachusetts residents were U.S. citizens and the state has a large foreign-born population. China was the natal country with 98,663 Massachusetts residents, followed by the Dominican Republic with 90,760, and Brazil with 81,000.
The State of Massachusetts’ governing document was originally drafted by John Adams in 1780 and is the world’s oldest functioning written constitution. This document served as a guide for the U.S. Constitution and between 1779 and 1919, Massachusetts held several constitutional conventions, which are now synonymous with ‘joint sessions.’
Governor Healey are focusing their initiatives on climate and clean energy, affordable and abundant housing, high-quality education and a few other industries to improve the lives of Massachusetts residents.
Massachusetts state government is broken down into three branches, much like the federal government. The government holds three offices: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. Under the Executive office is the governor and lieutenant governor.
Local governments in the Garden State have a US Representative per district, chambers of commerce, and mayoral elections.
Per the Pew Research Center, Massachusetts is trending Moderate with 54% of the population voting in favor of the Liberal/Moderate presidential candidates.
The economy of Massachusetts is largely based on technological research and development and the service sector, including tourism.
The United States Geological Survey (.gov) states that Massachusetts is a major producer of granite, common clay, construction sand, gravel, crushed stone, lime, and natural gemstones.
Arts and Entertainment
Massachusetts has several options for museums of fine arts such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass MoCA which fosters new art and beginning artists, and even a Museum of Bad Art.
You can dance at the Jacob’s Pillow dance festival or stimulate your hearing at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. You can catch a few shows at The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in The Berkshires or at Worcester’s Hanover Theatre.
Space, Science, and Technology
Massachusetts has had a significant presence in the field of space and technology through research institutions, companies, and organizations. NASA Research, Aerospace Companies like Draper, Raytheon, L3Harris Technologies, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are all examples of companies and organizations that have driven innovation in Massachusetts, and in the space and technology industry.
The state’s rich history, natural beauty, cultural attractions, and culinary experiences make it an appealing destination for a wide variety of visitors. Attractions include the Freedom Trail in Boston, which highlights important historical sites, including the Paul Revere House and the USS Constitution Museum. The Massachusetts State House is another must-see with it’s instantly recognizable golden dome in Boston on Beacon Street.
Visitors can find stunning, picturesque beaches, charming towns, and scenic views in Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.
Fall foliage, cultural centers, and outdoor activities are all things that visitors can expect to find in this small powerhouse state. According to mass.gov, several municipalities across the commonwealth have provided disclaimers they use when publishing or distributing maps and GIS data.
Dairy products account for 12% of the state’s livestock products income. Massachusetts also has strong cattle and calves, aquaculture, chicken, eggs, and turkey industries.
Farm income is generated mostly from greenhouse and nursery products. 25% of revenue for the industry is brought in by cranberries. Other important crops are sweet corn, apples, and hay.
Wealth & Poverty
As of 2022, the poverty rate in Massachusetts is 10.4% and the rate of extreme poverty is 6%. 8.2% of Massachusetts is experiencing food insecurity and almost 21% of the population is working under the poverty line due to the moderate percentage of low-wage jobs. 3% of Massachusetts uninsured.
Though 38% of Massachusetts rent their home, the property tax rate is relatively high in comparison to other states at 1.12% where the national average is 0.99%. The home foreclosure rates are at 0.92% and 17,975 people are experiencing homelessness. Malden, Massachusetts, located in Middlesex County and is a suburb of Boston, is highly rated for making their residents feel safe and most residents rent their homes.
Public Health in Massachusetts includes 35.8% of people on a Medicaid/Medicare/CHIP Plan, which, overall, is lower than the national average. There is a company in the Bay State that creates opportunities for the people in Massachusetts called Mass Humanities.
Massachusetts Interesting Facts
Massachusetts has a long and proud history of being a leader in the United States. It was the first state to create a public school system, pass laws protecting workers’ rights, and become the first U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage. Other interesting facts include the following cultural tidbits.
Native American Information
Massachusetts has an office of Indian Affairs where their fundamental role is to assist Native Americans in their relationshipwith state and local government agencies and to advise the Commonwealth in matters relating to Native Americans. Families can use websites such as FamilySearch to find their native relations or conduct research at the public records offices in their locales.
Massachusetts has a diverse and delicious cuisine that reflects its coastal location and historical influences. New England Clam Chowder, Lobster Rolls, Baked Beans, Boston Cream Pie, Sam Adams Beer, and Clambakes are all staples of New England and, specifically, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts has a rich history of Native American populations as well as early European settlers and the events that led to the Revolutionary War.
Native Americans have been farming, fishing, hunting, and gathering in modern-day Massachusetts for at least 10,000 years. The Ponkapoag were the region’s first residents. Members of the Wampanoag tribe also lived in this area, as did the Nipmuc tribe.
The natives were friendly with the first English settlers, though the settlers brought diseases that wiped out nearly 80% of the tribes’ populations. “Praying Plantations” were established after some time were natives were moved and converted to Christianity.
Without the natives’ help, settlers would not have survived the harsh winters that can be endured in the Northeast.
Throughout most of the 1600s, Massachusetts consisted of not one, but two primary colonies: the “Old Colony” of Plymouth and the larger, more powerful Massachusetts Bay colony.
Plymouth Colony was settled by Pilgrims, a band of religious exiles that separated from the Anglican Church while Massachusetts Bay was founded by Puritans, most of whom wished to reform, or purify, the Anglican Church rather than separating.
The position of the colony forced it to become dependent on maritime activities for economic well-being. During the colonial period, several wars between the French and the English were fought. The French relied heavily on Indian-white raiding parties to spread havoc while English colonials retaliated with similar raids against the French and their Native allies.
As time went on, more and more Bay Staters held their loyalty to the king. Fishing, shipbuilding, and the carrying trade provided the main sources of the colony’s wealth. Boston and the Boston Harbor were the largest and most prosperous until the early 1740s when the economy went into relative decline as a result of the revolution.
After colonists declared independence, Lexington and Concord saw heard the shot heard ‘round the world, first. Few battles were actually fought on Massachusetts soil after the first year of the revolution.
As a result of the American Revolutionary War, agriculture took a downward turn in Massachusetts. This downward trend for agriculture and an upward trend in migration paved the way for Massachusetts to make headway in developing large-scale manufacturing enterprises producing textiles, shoes, and machinery.
Pre-Civil War History
In years leading up to the election of Abraham Lincoln, Massachusetts was a free state, supported the Union cause, Lincoln, and felt that the union had to be preserved. In addition to their free-state ideology, Massachussets was setting the bar in terms of civil rights and equity. In 1833, the first public building for the express purpose of educaing black childern was built. Boston and Massachusetts school were desegregating in 1855.
159,165 soldiers and sailors from Massachusetts fought in the Civil War. 133,002 served in the army, 26,163 served in the navy, 13,942 died from both branches. Several of the soldiers had a direct relation to Paul Revere, his grandsons, Paul Joseph Revere, Edward Hutchison Revere, and Joseph Warren Revere all served in the American Civil War.
Massachusetts had the first African-American regiment in the Civil War, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment led by Robert Gould Shaw and the first Irish regiment in the state was the 9th Massachussets Regiment.
Post Civil War
After the Civil War ended, Massachusetts continued to be an important center of Black culture. The Boston Police Department appointed Horatio J. Homer, it’s first Black law enforcement officer, in 1878 where he spent 40 years on the force. In 1963, 8,000 people marched through Roxbury, MA to protest de facto segregation in Boston’s public schools.
In 1987 “The Big Dig” was the biggest federal highway project ever approved and it included making the Central Artery in addition to other major highways.
Charlie Baker led the state through the COVID-19 Pandemic that impacted the entire world. When he wrapped up his 8 years of service, he ruminated on how to navigate the challenges of the pandemic. He was succeeded in 2023 by Maura Healey.
Today, Massachusetts has cemented its place in the country as a center of higher education and high-tech industry. Harvard and MIT are examples of the rich education that is available in Massachusetts.
People Also Ask...
If you are interested in more information about the state of Massachusetts, then keep reading — we have compiled answers to the most common FAQs below. Plus, test your newfound state knowledge by taking our quiz on U.S. States!
What is the population of Massachusetts?
The population of Massachusetts was 6,892,503 as of July 1, 2019.
What are the major cities in Massachusetts?
The five largest cities in Massachusetts are Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, and Cambridge.
What is the economy like in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has a strong, diversified economy with the sectors of health care, finance and insurance, higher education, retail trade and manufacturing being the largest contributors to the state's GDP.
What is the climate like in Massachusetts?
The climate in Massachusetts varies greatly depending on location. Summers are generally warm and humid in most regions while winters tend to be cold and snowy in northern parts of the state. The coastal regions tend to experience milder weather than inland areas.
What is the natural geography like in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has a range of different geographical features, including mountains, hills, plains and rivers. The Appalachian Mountains run through western Massachusetts and there are numerous lakes scattered throughout the state as well.
Famous Massachusetts Natives and Residents
John Adams president;
John Quincy Adams president;
Samuel Adams patriot;
Bronson Alcott educator and social reformer;
Louisa May Alcott writer;
Horatio Alger novelist;
Susan B. Anthony woman suffragist;
Clara Barton American Red Cross founder;
Leonard Bernstein conductor;
George H. W. Bush president;
William Cullen Bryant poet and editor;
Luther Burbank horticulturalist;
John Cheever novelist;
John Singleton Copley painter;
E. E. Cummings poet;
Jacques d'Amboise ballet dancer;
Matt Damon actor;
Bette Davis actress;
Cecil B. DeMille film director;
Emily Dickinson poet;
Ralph Waldo Emerson philosopher and poet;
Geraldine Farrar soprano, actress;
Benjamin Franklin statesman and scientist;
Buckminster Fuller architect and educator;
Robert Goddard father of modern rocketry;
John Hancock statesman;
Nathaniel Hawthorne novelist;
Oliver Wendell Holmes jurist;
Winslow Homer painter;
Elias Howe inventor;
Stanley Kunitz poet;
John F. Kennedy president;
Jack Lemmon actor;
Amy Lowell poet;
James Russell Lowell poet;
Robert Lowell poet;
Horace Mann educator;
Cotton Mather clergyman;
Herman Melville writer;
Samuel F. B. Morse painter and inventor;
Edgar Allan Poe writer;
Paul Revere silversmith and Revolutionary War figure;
Norman Rockwell artist;
Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) author and illustrator;
Anne Sexton poet;
David Souter jurist;
Lucy Stone woman suffragist;
Louis Henry Sullivan architect;
Henry David Thoreau author;
Barbara Walters TV commentator;
James McNeill Whistler painter;
Eli Whitney inventor;
John Greenleaf Whittier poet.
U.S. State Comparisons
All U.S. States: Population & Economy
Historical Population Statistics, 1790–Present
Per Capita Personal Income
Minimum Wage Rates
Federal Government Expenditure
Percent of People in Poverty
Births and Birth Rates
Percentage of Uninsured by State