Nantucket’s “Wash-Ashores”

Editor’s note: The demographics of Nantucket have changed considerably since I arrived here for the first time in 1969. This spring, I attended a lecture at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Food For Thought Series at which Peter Morrison presented his analysis of the changes. I was so impressed at the clarity and importance of his work that I asked him if he could adapt the presentation for Mahon About Town. Here is the first in a series of graphical snapshots of a changing Nantucket.


Nantucket’s “Wash-Ashores”


One becomes a Nantucketer either through the lottery of birth or by choice. It’s a distinction with particular relevance for Nantucket, which attracts so many seasonal residents and temporary workers each year. This annual conveyor belt of people carries a select few whose fond attachments will eventually trigger a decision to make Nantucket their home.

How is this demographic amalgam remaking our community? The 2010 Census provides numerous insights into Nantucket’s changing demography. In this issue and those to follow, I’ll highlight how Nantucket’s Wash-Ashores are transforming our community.

This week’s focus: Nantucketers’ off-island origins. Nantucket is evolving into an immigrant entry port. The Island is very much a microcosm of demographic changes underway nationally.

Census 2010 counted 10,172 full-time Nantucket residents – persons who claim Nantucket as their “usual place of residence.” By the Census Bureau’s most recent (2008) measure, 15% of us are foreign-born, nearly double the 8% in 2000 (see chart 1 above – “More Foreign-Born Nantucketers”).

Islanders hailing from Caribbean and Central American origins account for about one in 10 of Nantucket’s foreign-born residents. Topping the list: roughly 400 Jamaicans and 400 Costa Ricans. Others include the 150 Eastern Europeans (mostly Bulgarians), plus about a dozen Nantucketers from each of the following origins: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, New Zealand, South Africa, and Vietnam.

Most foreign-born newcomers settling on Nantucket are not (yet) citizens, but their decision to put down roots here as a resident signals a clear intent.

Peter A. Morrison tracks demographic trends nationwide and here on Nantucket. Retired from RAND Corporation in California, he has been regular seasonal visitor since 1985 and settled on Nantucket in 2005. Peter serves on Nantucket’s Finance Committee and Energy Study Committee and as a director of the Nantucket Shellfish Association.

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