Latest Census finds fewer young children in Mass.

Population under 18 down 5.4 percent from 2000, greater concentration of children live in Boston and Gateway Cities

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. The 2010 Census results, showing fewer young children in Massachusetts, tell a compelling story about the need to invest in our youngest residents.

Increasingly, the state’s youngest residents live in Boston and the two dozen state-designated 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 percent of Bay State children under age 6 now reside.

Here are some highlights from the 2010 Census:

  • Overall, the state’s population grew 3.1 percent to 6.55 million. However, the number of young children, birth to age 5, fell by almost 38,000 or 7.9 percent — 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 percent — 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent in 2000. Overall, 35 percent 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.

Meet the Author
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.

Irene Sege is director of communications for Strategies for Children and its Early Education for All Campaign. She blogs at Eye on Early Education.