Illustrations By Travis Foster


We usually compare Massachusetts with other states, but there’s a whole world out there to search for possible doppelgangers. According to the 2006 World Almanac, Massachusetts matches up almost exactly with Paraguay for total population (about 6.4 million), El Salvador for population density (820 people per square mile), Serbia/Montenegro for birth rate (12.1 per 1,000 women each year), Belgium for infant mortality (4.7 per 1,000 births), and Egypt for gross state or national product ($320 billion).

It’s tougher to find a country that resembles Massachusetts in the make-up of its workforce, which has advanced beyond—or simply lost —agricultural and manufacturing jobs. Barely more than 10 percent of the Bay State’s workers are in those two sectors. Outside of Vatican City, the only nation that comes close to that figure is the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, where only 14 percent of its half million people are involved with growing or making things.


“Onsite parking for employees” is the top factor for companies deciding whether to locate (or stay) in a particular location, according to Revenue Sharing and the Future of the Massachusetts Economy, a recent report by the Massachusetts Municipal Association and Northeastern University’s Center for Urban and Regional Policy. Authors Barry Bluestone, Alan Clayton-Matthews, and David Soule surveyed 230 industrial and commercial developers across the US, who also ranked the “availability of appropriate labor” in a region and the “timeliness of approvals/appeals” in a municipality as among the most important factors in decision-making. The least important factor was whether a particular location was subject to a municipal minimum wage law. (State and local tax rates were deemed far more important.)

Other low-ranked factors included access to railroads and — sorry, Harvard and MIT — proximity to research institutions and universities.

The authors conclude that local factors can outweigh statewide conditions when companies decide where to locate facilities. The choice, they say, is often not between “Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Texas” as much as between “Worcester, Raleigh–Durham– Chapel Hill, and Austin.”


According to figures released by the US Commerce Department late last year, New Bedford was the most profitable fishing port in the nation in 2004, helped by a 35 percent jump in the sea scallop catch. The total value of fish brought into the port was $207 million, up from $176 million the previous year, and it was the fifth consecutive year that the dollar figure increased. The NOAA Fisheries Service, part of the Commerce Department, also reported that Americans ate a record 16.6 pounds of fish and shellfish per person in 2004, including a record 4.2 pounds of shrimp per person. But while the consumption of fresh and frozen fish has been steadily rising, the popularity of canned tuna has slipped from 3.5 pounds per person in 2000 to 3.3 pounds in 2004. Sorry, Charlie.


The Bay State’s shift to a service economy has generally coincided with a drop in union membership, but the labor movement here was able to rebound slightly in 2005 after three years of falling numbers. According to February data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 402,000 workers, or 13.9 per-cent of the state’s workforce, belonged to unions last year, up from 393,000 people, or 13.5 percent, in 2004. That put Massachusetts in 19th place among all states in union membership. Rhode Island was first among New England states, but its rate fell last year from 16.3 percent to 15.9 percent. Nationally, the most unionized state was New York (26.1 percent, up from 25.3 percent), and last place goes to South Carolina (2.3 percent, even lower than its 2004 rate of 3.0 percent).


Massachusetts is second only to California in treating and preventing emergency health situations, according to a January report by the American College of Emergency Physicians. With an overall grade of “B”, the Bay State scored highly in the number of physicians and nurses per capita, as well as in injury-prevention programs and immunization efforts. Mandatory helmet use for motorcyclists also got a thumbs up. But the state got a “D-” in the category of “medical liability,” thanks to what the ACEP considers too high a cap on non-economic damages in malpractice suits. It also came out below average in the number of emergency departments and trauma centers per capita.

Every state in the Northeast was in the top half of ACEP’s rankings, though New Hampshire barely made it at 25th place, with low numbers of hospital beds and emergency physicians relative to its population. (Its libertarian stance on motorcycle helmets—use them if you want—also got the Granite State a demerit.) Arkansas, Idaho, and Utah were at the bottom of the 50 states.


New figures from the Census Bureau also confirm the popularity of seafood in the US. As of 2002, there were 0.48 restaurants that primarily served seafood for every 10,000 people, compared with 0.33 steakhouses for the same group. Unsurprisingly, the gap was larger in Massachusetts, where there were 1.04 seafood restaurants and 0.21 steakhouses for every 10,000 people. Among ethnic cuisines, Mexican was the most popular nationwide (1.01 for every 10,000 people, compared with 0.38 in Massachusetts), but Chinese was first in the Bay State (2.25 for every 10,000 people, compared with 0.99 in the US). But pizzerias were common everywhere: 1.45 per 10,000 people nationally and 1.91 for the same group in Massachusetts.

Overall, there were 13.29 “full-” or “limited-service” restaurants for every 10,000 people in the US, or one for every 753 potential diners. Bay Staters either eat out more or prefer smaller places, as there are almost exactly 15 restaurants for every 10,000 people, or one for every 667 diners.