Wondering how your MetroWest town is doing in comparison to the state and the country? Wonder no more, thanks to a new initiative launched by the Foundation for MetroWest, , a community foundation serving 33 cities and towns of MetroWest. Impact MetroWest, an interactive website (www.impactmw.org) that takes a deep look at statistics on the 700,000 people in the region.
The goal was to present this data as almost a gift to the region,” says MetroWest Foundation spokesperson Steve Teller. “There are reams and reams of data on anything and everything, but there is a lack of data that is specific to a region and specific to communities. The project, funded by Middlesex Savings Bank, focused on areas in which the Foundation for MetroWest’s nonprofits were focused. Finding out what the data says, he says, “could be a jumping point for how do we arrive at solutions.”
Data is presented in the areas, or as the site lists, “indicators,” of Children and Families, Community Life, Demographics and Diversity, Economy and Workforce, Education and Financial Security. Within each of these categories, data from the Center for Governmental Research is further broken down by county and then by each of the 33 towns in the MetroWest.
“We want everyone to pore over it and discuss what they think is important about it. Once everyone has arrived at the most important takeaways, then it could be a phase for ‘How do we fix this?’” said Teller. The key takeaways for the MetroWest region included demographic changes, “not just in population overall, but population in terms of growing diversity and in terms of aging. We’re getting older and more diverse than the rest of the country, and both of those hold a lot of potential in how we need to change how MetroWest is doing things.”
The initiative highlights the region’s strengths and challenges using detailed data, delving into population changes, financial hardships, transportation needs, educational disparities and income inequality – the issues impacting the daily lives of MetroWest families.
“MetroWest residents see the changes taking place around them, but they may not understand what’s driving those changes,” said Judy Salerno, executive director, Foundation for MetroWest. “Impact MetroWest illuminates a common path forward by providing tangible evidence of where we are as a region and generating conversations about where we want to go and how we can get there together.”
At the unveiling of the interactive new tool, Massachusetts Lt. Governor Karyn Polito said, “Impact MetroWest provides its 33 regional communities with the tools and resources they need to succeed and grow. Our administration looks forward to our continued collaboration in the shared goal of improving the quality of life for residents throughout the Commonwealth.”
A quick look at overall data collected shows MetroWest residents experiencing a growing arts sector, more protection for open space, and falling crime. plagued with an increasing average travel time to work and an increase in drug-related deaths.
Overall, the MetroWest Massachusetts population has increased by 10% from 2000 to 2018, slightly higher than the state rate of 9%, but lower than the nation’s increase of 16% in the same time period.
In terms of diversity, from 2000 to 2018, the number of foreign-born members of the population in the MetroWest has jumped from 13% to 18%, with share of people aged 5 and over speaking a language besides English at home rising from 18% to 20%.
Users can find data by town on the website (with notes on whether the numbers are statistically significant). In Ashland, for example, that number of foreign-born residents has gone from a tenth of the population in 2000 to over a fifth (21%) in 2018, with a corresponding jump in the number speaking another language at home (from 11% to 26% from 2000 to 2018. In Natick, the foreign-born population rose from 10% to 18% in the same time period, with a jump in those speaking another language at home from 11 to 26%. In Holliston, just 5% of the population was foreign-born in 2000, and that share has grown to 9%.
Data shows that the rate of homeownership (65%) is up overall for the region, but that varies by community. Holliston, for example has a 90% homeownership rate, up from 86% in 2000, but Framingham has one of the lowest in the region, at 55%. Ashland homeownership rates have risen slightly in that time period to 82%, while Natick’s has remained steady at 71%.
At the same time, the data shows that financial insecurity and homelessness is also on the rise. The percent of children living in poverty has slightly declined in the MetroWest by since 2009-2013, but is up from 2000, and the number of homeless persons per 10,000 residents has recently risen, from 17.6 in 2017 to 19.8 in 2018, although down from a peak of 27 in 2014. The region’s rates of homelessness are lower than that of the Commonwealth overall (29.1 in 2018), but higher than the national rate (16.7 in 2018). Again, users can look at this data, by town.
To see more categories and the data for your town, visit https://www.impactmw.org/.
In conjunction with the launch of Impact MetroWest, and in celebration of a quarter-century of service to the region, the Foundation is also announcing its 25th Anniversary Grant Program funded by MathWorks, the leading developer of mathematical computing software. The Foundation will award $250,000 in grants to organizations that use the Impact MetroWest findings to make positive change in their community.
More information on eligibility and the application process can be found at https://www.foundationformetrowest.org/25thgrant/.
For more information on the Foundation for MetroWest, visit www.foundationforMetroWest.org or call (508) 647-2260.