The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. Two thirds of its population of 6.6 million lives in the Boston metropolitan area in the eastern half of the state. Western Massachusetts is mostly rural, except for the Knowledge Corridor region in the Connecticut River Valley, surrounding the area's economic and cultural center, Springfield. Massachusetts is the most populous of the six New England states and ranks third among U.S. states in GDP per capita.
Culturally, historically, and commercially, Massachusetts has been significant throughout American history. Plymouth was the second permanent English settlement in North America. Many of Massachusetts's towns were founded by colonists from England in the 1620s and 1630s. Harvard University, founded in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the (now) United States. In 1692, the towns surrounding Salem, Massachusetts experienced one of America's most infamous cases of mass hysteria, the Salem Witch Trials. In the eighteenth century, the Protestant First Great Awakening, which swept the Atlantic world, originated from the pulpit of Northampton, Massachusetts preacher Jonathan Edwards. In the late 18th century, Boston became known as the "Cradle of Liberty" for the agitation there that led to the American Revolution and the independence of the United States from Great Britain. Before the American Civil War, Massachusetts was a center for the temperance, transcendentalist, and abolitionist movements. In 1837, Mount Holyoke College, the United States' first women's college, was opened in the Connecticut River Valley town of South Hadley. In the late nineteenth century, the (now) Olympic sports of basketball and volleyball were invented in the Western Massachusetts cities of Springfield and Holyoke, respectively. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriage. The state has contributed many prominent politicians to national service, including members of the Adams family and of the Kennedy family. More
The United States Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Massachusetts' gross state product in 2008 was US$365 billion. The per capita personal income in 2008 was $50,735, making it the third highest state in the nation. 13 Fortune 500 companies are located in the commonwealth, the largest of which is Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. Sectors vital to the Massachusetts economy include higher education, biotechnology, finance, health care, and tourism. Route 128 was a major center for the development of minicomputers and electronics. High technology remains an important sector, though few of the largest technology companies are based there. In recent years tourism has played an ever-important role in the state's economy, with Boston and Cape Cod being the leading destinations. Other popular tourist destinations include Salem, Plymouth and the Berkshires. As of April 2010, the state's unemployment rate was 9.2%.
As of 2005, there were 7,700 farms in Massachusetts encompassing a total of, averaging apiece. Almost 2,300 of Massachusetts' 6,100 farms grossed under $2,500 in 2007. Particular agricultural products of note include tobacco, livestock, and fruits, tree nuts, and berries, for which the state is nationally ranked 11th, 17th, and 16th, respectively. Massachusetts is the second largest cranberry producing state in the union (after Wisconsin).More
Massachusetts was the first state to require municipalities to appoint a teacher or establish a grammar school with the passage of the Massachusetts Education Law of 1647, and 19th century reforms pushed by Horace Mann laid much of the groundwork for contemporary universal public education. Massachusetts is home to the country's oldest public elementary school (The Mather School, founded in 1639), oldest high school (Boston Latin School, founded in 1635) and the oldest college (Harvard University, founded in 1636). In 1852, Massachusetts became the first state to pass compulsory school attendance laws. The per-student public expenditure for elementary and secondary schools (kindergarten through grade 12) was fifth in the nation in 2004, at $11,681. In 2007, Massachusetts scored highest of all the states in math on the National Assessments of Educational Progress.
Massachusetts is home to 121 institutions of higher education. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both located in Cambridge, consistently rank among the world's best universities. There are more than 40 colleges located in the greater Boston area alone and ten in the greater Worcester area. The University of Massachusetts (nicknamed UMass) is the five-campus public university system of the commonwealth. UMass Amherst is the oldest and largest of these campuses, with a 2010 undergraduate enrollment of just over 20,000 students.More
Massachusetts has 10 regional metropolitan planning organizations and three non-metropolitan planning organizations covering the remainder of the state; statewide planning is handled by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates public transportation in the form of subway, bus and ferry systems in the Metro Boston area. It also operates longer distance commuter rail services throughout the larger Greater Boston area, including service to Worcester and Providence, Rhode Island. Amtrak operates inter-city rail, including the high-speed Acela service to cities such as Providence, New Haven, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Fifteen other regional transit authorities provide public transportation in the form of bus services in their local communities. Two heritage railways are in operation: the Cape Cod Central Railroad and the Berkshire Scenic Railway. As of 2006, a number of freight railroads were operating in Massachusetts, with CSX being the largest carrier. Massachusetts has a total of of freight trackage in operation. The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority regulates freight and passenger ferry service to the islands and operates some of those lines.More