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Whites Now the Minority in Massachusetts

3/22/01

BOSTON (AP) -- The Asian and Hispanic communities in Massachusetts surged so much in the past decade that Boston has become a city where white people are in the minority, the Census Bureau said.

Whites now make up 49.5 percent of Boston's population, compared with 23.8 percent for blacks and 14.4 percent for Latinos, the Census said in data released Wednesday. Asians make up 7.5 percent of the city's population, while other minorities and people of mixed race make up 4.8 percent.

The state's overall Hispanic population grew by 49.1 percent, to 428,279.

''Latinos in Massachusetts have come here for the same reasons that every other immigrant has: for jobs, for good quality of life, and we've obviously found it in Massachusetts,'' said state Rep. Jarrett Barrios.

Massachusetts' Asian population grew by 67.8 percent, to 240,613, fueled by a large increase in immigrants.

Rithy Uong, 41, who fled Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia and arrived in Lowell in 1990, said Cambodians were becoming established in his city.

''I think there's more acceptance in a way. Every new wave of immigrants experiences resistance from the older ones. We have proved ourselves to the community,'' he said.

Young families and retirees sent the population of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard climbing during the 1990s, the Census said.

Nantucket was the state's fastest growing county, increasing by 58 percent. Dukes County, which encompasses Martha's Vineyard, grew by 29 percent while Barnstable County, which covers Cape Cod, grew by 19 percent.

''In the summer I avoid leaving town,'' said F. Thomas Fudala, the town planner in Mashpee on Cape Cod. ''It's just such a horrible mess out there.''

Overall, the state population grew by 5.5 percent during the last decade to 6.3 million.

Paul Watanabe, co-director of the Institute for Asian-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, said the question now is whether the growth in the Asian population will be reflected in more political and business power.

The white population in Massachusetts has declined steadily from 1980, when it accounted for 93 percent of the state total. In 1990, the figure was 90 percent and last year 84.5 percent.

The size of the Hispanic group, which the Census Bureau considered an ''ethnicity'' and not a race, overshadowed the number of blacks, which grew 14.4 percent to 343,454 in 2000.

While Boston, Worcester, Lowell, Lawrence and Cambridge all reported population growth, western Massachusetts was flat during the 1990s.

Berkshire County lost 3 percent of its population. The county seat, Pittsfield, has lost nearly 10 percent of its population over the past 20 years and empty storefronts pockmark its business district. General Electric's closed transformer plants are silent hulks.

''Some days I look around and wonder where did Pittsfield go?'' said Faith Daly, 46, who operates ''The Daly Special'' lunch counter. ''The people who used to be able to make a decent living at GE are now plowing snow and doing yard work for people who can afford vacation homes here.''


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