Community Life

Quality of life encompasses a wide range of attributes – here, we examine factors including the arts, transportation, public safety, and civic engagement. In MetroWest, challenges in these areas include drug addiction and transportation difficulties, while a growing arts sector, protected open spaces and falling crime rates are areas of strength.

Drug-related deaths are not only an individual tragedy, but also profoundly affect surviving relatives and friends. Overdoses in MetroWest have skyrocketed more than 200% since 2007 to a rate of 25 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2018, a bit lower than the state rate of 30.

Getting around MetroWest poses daily challenges for many residents. About 1 in 10 residents in 2014-18 reported having no access to a vehicle, making it difficult to get to work and access a variety of other resources. Commuting to work continues to be done mainly by car, though the share of residents driving alone to work fell slightly since 2000 to 75% in 2014-18 as public transit, biking and walking all increased slightly. The average travel time to work in the region rose 3 minutes during this period, to 31 minutes, which was slightly higher than the state average. The longest commute times were in Sherborn (40 minutes), Boxborough (39 minutes), and Medfield, Hopkinton, and Holliston (all at 38 minutes), while the shortest was in Waltham (26 minutes).

Arts and cultural institutions attract visitors and investment, contributing to the vitality of a region. In 2018, MetroWest had somewhat fewer establishments in the Arts, Entertainment and Recreation sector (5.2 per 10,000 residents) than the state as a whole (5.8), but the regional sector has grown since 2000.

Protection of open space preserves valuable habitat and natural resources while providing public access to nature. As of 2013, about 21% of all land in MetroWest was classified as “protected” under the Massachusetts Land Protection Program, slightly less than the state as a whole (25%). The share of protected land in local communities varied widely, ranging from 3% in Milford to 40% in Lincoln. 

Today, internet access is a crucial indicator to assess quality of life. In 2014-18, 87% of households in MetroWest had access to the Internet, slightly above the state rate of 85%.

Voting participation and charitable giving are two indicators that speak to levels of civic engagement. In MetroWest, voter participation has increased overall since 2000 in both midterm and presidential elections.  52% of MetroWest voted in the 2018 midterm elections and 64% in the 2016 presidential elections, both slightly higher than the statewide rate. Turnout in MetroWest in 2016 was substantially higher than at the national level (55%).

In 2017, MetroWest residents contributed 2.2% of income, or just under $4 billion to charity, up 1.8% from 2011 and similar to the statewide rate.

Crime detracts from the quality of life and fortunately it is decreasing in MetroWest. There were 7.3 crimes per 1,000 MetroWest residents in 2018, a bit lower than the statewide rate of 9.1 and down 15% since 2012.

Incarceration rates vary widely across racial and ethnic groups both in MetroWest and throughout the state. In 2015, the incarceration rate for Hispanic or Latino residents in MetroWest was 4 times higher than that of white residents; among African American residents, the rate was 3 times higher than among white residents.

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