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Worcester County is a non-governmental county located in the U.S. state of Massachusettsmarker. The largest city and county seat is the city of Worcestermarker. The population was 750,963 at the 2000 census.

Law and government

Worcester County today exists today only as a historical geographic region. It has had no county government since July 1, 1998, when all former county functions were assumed by other governmental agencies. There are vestiges of the old system: for example, county sheriffs are still elected, but are under the state Executive Office of Public Safety. Also, the office of district attorney is effectively a county-wide position even though the district includes one town from a neighboring county. There is not, however, a county council or a commissioner. Communities are now granted the right to form their own regional compacts for sharing services. The geographic area of Worcester County is covered by two regional planning commissions: Central Massachusetts (centered on the city of Worcester) and Montachusett (centered on the cities of Fitchburg and Leominster.)

Massachusetts, by law, began to allow county governments to dissolve (or change form), beginning around 1997, mostly aimed at saving costs. Contiguous municipalities in southern New England made county governments less essential in this densely populated region. Connecticut and Rhode Island for example, also no longer have County governments. The law in Massachusetts still allows for communities to form regional compacts and governmental entities, and allowed a number of counties to continue. Traditional and modern County and regional governments still exist in Southeastern Massachusetts. Barnstable County, Massachusetts, which is Cape Cod, functions as a modern regional government and fulfills a number of regional services.

When the government of Worcester County was established on April 2, 1731, Worcester was chosen as its shire town (later known as a county seat). From that date until the dissolution of the county government, it was the only county seat. Because of the size of the county, there were fifteen attempts over 140 years to split the county into two counties, but without success. Initially, Lancastermarker was proposed as the seat of the northern county; later, Petershammarker was proposed once and Fitchburgmarker was proposed repeatedly, most recently in 1903. Perhaps as a concession, in August 1884, the Worcester County Registry of Deeds was split into two, with the Worcester Northern registry placed in Fitchburg.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,579  square miles (4,090  km²), of which, 1,513 square miles (3,919 km²) of it is land and 66 square miles (171 km²) of it (4.18%) is water. The county constitutes Central Massachusetts, separating Western Massachusetts on one side from Eastern Massachusetts and the Greater Boston area on the other side. It stretches from the northern to the southern border of the state. The geographic center of Massachusetts is in Rutlandmarker.

Worcester County is one of two Massachusetts counties that borders three different neighboring states; the other being Berkshire Countymarker. They are also the only two counties to touch both the northern and southern state lines.

Adjacent counties

National protected area

  • Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge (part)


In 1990 Worcester County had a population of 709,705.

As of the census of 2000, there were 750,963 people, 283,927 households, and 192,502 families residing in the county. The population density was 496 people per square mile (192/km²). There were 298,159 housing units at an average density of 197 per square mile (76/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 89.61% White, 2.73% Black or African American, 0.25% Native American, 2.62% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 2.93% from other races, and 1.82% from two or more races. 6.77% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 15.9% were of Irish, 12.3% Italian, 11.7% French, 8.0% French Canadian, 8.0% English, 5.6% Polish and 5.0% Americanmarker ancestry according to Census 2000. 85.1% spoke English, 6.1% Spanish and 1.9% French as their first language.

There were 283,927 households out of which 33.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.50% were married couples living together, 11.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.20% were non-families. 26.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.11.

In the county the population was spread out with 25.60% under the age of 18, 8.40% from 18 to 24, 31.10% from 25 to 44, 21.80% from 45 to 64, and 13.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 95.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $47,874, and the median income for a family was $58,394. Males had a median income of $42,261 versus $30,516 for females. The per capita income for the county was $22,983. About 6.80% of families and 9.20% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.30% of those under age 18 and 9.50% of those age 65 or over.

Cities, towns, and villages*

* Villages are census division, but have no separate corporate existence from the towns they are in.


  1. Census Worcester County Basic Fact Sheet

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