Children and Families

More children in the MetroWest region are living in poverty, compared to 2000, with rates especially high among children of color and in some local areas. While as a whole MetroWest children are in some ways better off the children across the state and nation, the data show that there are deep racial and ethnic disparities, which reflect current and historic differences in socioeconomic status and access to resources, as well as public policies with discriminatory or inequitable outcomes.  Poverty, domestic violence and single-parent families are all conditions that can impact children’s ability to thrive, and in our region, children have different burdens to bear depending in part on where they live.

Socioeconomic status also plays a critical role in shaping a child’s future. Children raised in poverty are at higher risk for various health and social problems, including difficulty in school, which can diminish their chances for successful adult lives. In 2014-18, about 60,000 children in MetroWest were living in poverty, or 9% of all children under 18 – up slightly from 8% in 2000. While in some communities in our region very few children are living in poverty, other areas have especially high rates, such as the 13% child poverty rate in Framingham. Across the region, poverty rates were much higher among Hispanic (27%) and African American (21%) children than among white (7%) and Asian (8%) children.

Whether a young person is in school or working also is an indicator of future success. In 2014-18, 4% of MetroWest youth between the ages of 16 and 19 were not in school nor working, similar to the state rate and less than the national rate of 7%.

Children in single-parent families are far more likely to grow up in low-income households than those living with two parents. In 2014-18, 25% of families with children under 18 in the MetroWest region were headed by one parent, well below the national rate of 34% and the statewide rate of 32%. In MetroWest, the share was highest among Black or African American (55%) and Hispanic families (51%), followed by white (29%) and Asian (15%) families. Rates were higher for all racial and ethnic groups at the state level.

A healthy pregnancy is one of the earliest factors that shapes a child’s future. Early, high-quality prenatal care can improve chances that pregnancy results in a healthy, full-term baby. In 2018, MetroWest women initiated prenatal care in the first trimester at slightly higher rates than Massachusetts as a whole. Rates varied by race and ethnicity: Prenatal care was initiated in 74% of births to Black or African American mothers, 82% of Hispanic or Latina births, 86% of Asian and 88% of white births. These differences mirrored racial and ethnic disparities at the state and national level. There has been little progress on narrowing these gaps at the regional level since 2012. 

Domestic violence has uniquely negative effects on victims and families. Domestic violence has increased from 1.7 reported victims per 1,000 residents in the region in 2000 to 2.7 in 2018, or nearly 8,500 reported victims. The region’s 2018 rate was lower than Massachusetts’ rate (3.6). The rate was highest in Marlborough (4.8) and lowest in Wayland (0.1) and Weston (0.3). Often, domestic violence still goes unreported.

Early Prenatal Care by Mother's Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Children Living in Poverty Increasing
Children Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Single-Parent Families Increasing
Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Disengaged Youth Decreasing
Reports of Domestic Violence Maintaining
Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Establishments Increasing
Households Without Vehicles Maintaining
Means of Transportation to Work Not Applicable
Average Travel Time to Work Increasing
Households With Internet Access Not Applicable
Voter Participation Rate Decreasing
Average Charitable Contribution Maintaining
Protected Land Not Applicable
Drug Poisoning Mortality Rate Increasing
Crimes Against People Decreasing
Incarceration Rates, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Change in Total Population Increasing
Change in Population by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Foreign-Born Population Increasing
Language Diversity Increasing
Population by Age Not Applicable
Change in Population by Age/Gender Not Applicable
Seniors Living Alone Decreasing
People with Disabilities Maintaining
Change in Total Jobs by Sector Not Applicable
Unemployment Rate Maintaining
Average Salary by Sector Not Applicable
High-Tech Jobs Decreasing
Female to Male Earnings Ratio Maintaining
Prekindergarten Participation Increasing
Student Performance on Grade 3 English, by Student Subgroup Not Applicable
Chronically Absent Students Decreasing
High School Cohort Graduation Rate by Student Group Increasing
Education Levels of Adults Not Applicable
Education Levels of Adults, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
People Living in Poverty Increasing
People Living in Poverty, by Education Level Not Applicable
People Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Household Receiving Temporary Assistance Maintaining
Participation in Food Assistance by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Median Household Income Maintaining
Median Household Income, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Living Wage Not Applicable
80/20 Income Ratio Maintaining
Access to Financial Services, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Homeownership Rates Increasing
Homeownership Rates, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Cost of Homeownership Increasing
Cost of Rent Not Applicable
Homelessness Increasing