A quick look at the 2010 U.S. Census findings for Massachusetts tells a compelling story about the need to invest in our youngest residents. In an aging state whose prosperity depends on a pipeline of skilled, well-educated workers, the burden of sustaining the commonwealth’s future prosperity is resting on fewer small shoulders.
Increasingly, the state’s youngest residents live in Boston and two dozen Gateway Cities, communities with high numbers of children in lower-income families.* These are communities where gaps in opportunity lead to gaps in achievement – and where almost 40% of Bay State children under age 6 now reside.
Here are some highlights:
- Overall, the state’s population grew 3.1% to 6.55 million. However, the number of young children, birth to age 5, fell by almost 38,000 or 7.9% — from 480,422 in 2000 to 442,592 in 2010. The number of school-aged children, 6-18, dropped almost 31,000 or 2.8% — from 1,105,102 in 2000 to 1,074,498 in 2010. Overall, the population of children, birth to 18, in Massachusetts declined 5.4% to 1,517,090.
- At the same time, the median age in Massachusetts rose to 39.1, up from 36.5 in 2000. The number of adults age 50-64 – baby boomers — jumped 35.8% to 1.3 million.
- Almost four of ten (38.7%) Massachusetts children, birth to age 5, live in Boston or a Gateway City, up from 35.8% in 2000. One-third (33.2%) of the commonwealth’s school-aged children, 6-18, live in Boston or a Gateway City, down from 35.1% in 2000. Overall, 35% of Massachusetts children, birth to 18, live in Boston or a Gateway City.
These numbers begin to tell a sobering story. Research shows that the roots of the achievement gap are evident well before children enter school, and the 2010 Census shows an increasing proportion of the state’s youngest children is concentrated in lower-income communities where the educational and other challenges tend to be greatest.
The commonwealth’s economy is one of the most sophisticated in the nation, and, with a declining population of children, the pipeline supplying it is smaller. Our future prosperity depends on ensuring that all children in the commonwealth are prepared to contribute to our knowledge-based economy.
* State law defines a Gateway City as a municipality with a population that is more than 35,000 and less than 250,000, a median household income that is below the state average, and a proportion of adults with college degrees that is lower than the state average. The 24 Gateway Cities are: Barnstable, Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Quincy, Revere, Salem, Springfield, Taunton, Westfield and Worcester.