Statistically Significant

Illustrations by Travis Foster


According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Massachusetts ranks second in the percentage of employed women who hold “managerial or professional” jobs. In the Bay State, 38.3 percent of working women are in such positions, second only to Maryland’s 41.3 percent. Every state in the Northeast beats the national average of 33.2 percent; Idaho finishes last with 24.6 percent. Massachusetts also ranks second to Maryland in median annual earnings for women ($35,800 a year in the Bay State). On other economic measures, there’s more room for improvement. Massachusetts ranks 13th in the percentage of businesses that are women-owned (26.6 percent) and 17th in the earnings ratio between full-time female and male workers. (Women make 76.5 percent of what men make, not as good at the 83.4 percent in first-place Hawaii but significantly better than the 69.3 percent in 46th-place New Hampshire.) As for the political arena, Massachusetts is a lowly 34th in the percentage of elected offices held by women – with Washington state and New Jersey holding the top and bottom spots, respectively.

But according to the National Education Association, Massachusetts leads the nation in busting the stereotype of schoolteaching as a profession for women. In the Bay State, 37.9 percent of public school teachers are men – well above second-place Kansas, where 33.6 percent are men. The bottom 13 states are all in the South; in last place South Carolina, only 17.5 percent of public school teachers are men.


Those long trucks delivering home heating oil, so familiar to New Englanders, have become almost as exotic as candlepin bowling alleys in the rest of the country. According to new Census Bureau figures, all six New England states lead the nation in the percentage of households that use oil heat. In Massachusetts, 38.3 percent of households rely on oil – far above the national average of 8.6 percent, but below the other five states in the region. (In Maine, the figure is a staggering 79.2 percent of households.) Outside of New England, the percentage drops rapidly; in nearby New Jersey, for example, only 17.4 percent of households use oil.

Nationally, 57.0 percent of homes use gas (versus 46.6 percent in Massachusetts), and 31.3 percent use electricity (versus 13.6 percent here).


Massachusetts dropped from fifth to sixth in the United Health Foundation’s annual “State Health Rankings,” released in November, and the state went against national trends in at least two categories. While the incidence of obesity went up from 22.1 percent of the US population in 2003 to 22.8 percent last year, it went down in the Bay State from 18.3 percent to 16.8 percent – making us the healthiest state in the nation on the fat score. The UHF was less pleased with our record on cigarettes. Nationally, the percentage of adults who smoke dropped from 23.0 percent in 2003 to 22.0 percent last year, but in Massachusetts the rate went up slightly, from 18.9 percent to 19.1 percent. That figure was still the seventh-lowest in the country, but we seem to have hit the ceiling (or floor) while other states are still reducing cigarette use. (In Hawaii, the rate fell from 21.0 percent to 17.2 percent last year.)

The strong showing of Massachusetts overall in the UHF report was helped by the lowest rate of occupational deaths in the country (2.5 per 100,000 workers) and the second lowest rate of motor vehicle deaths (0.9 per 100 million miles driven). The state’s worst showing was in violent crime (484 incidents per 100,000 residents), where we placed 33rd.


The Surface Transportation Policy Project named Boston as the safest large metro area for pedestrians in 2002 and 2003. There were 1.02 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people over the two-year period. While three cities actually had lower per-capita rates, they also had fewer people traveling by foot. According to 2000 Census figures, 4.0 percent of Boston area workers commute by foot, second only to New York.

At the state level, Massachusetts ranked 35th in pedestrian deaths per capita, higher than any New England state except for Connecticut. The lowest rate was in Iowa, though that may be because relatively few people make trips without the benefit of wheels. The highest fatality rate was in New Mexico.

According to the STPP, “walking is by far the most dangerous mode of travel.” In 2001, there were 20.1 deaths for every 100 million miles walked. The comparable figure for automobile travel was 1.3 deaths; for airline travelers, it was 7.3 deaths (an unusually high number because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that year). Jaywalking was arguably a factor in 22 percent of the pedestrian deaths in 2002-03, where the victim was “not in the crosswalk.” But for 40 percent of the victims, “no crosswalk was available.”


People who don’t like needles should count themselves lucky they weren’t forced to get a flu shot this winter. Thanks to Massachusetts, the US Supreme Court ruled 100 years ago this February that local governments have the right to impose penalties on citizens who don’t take their medicine. At issue in the landmark case Jacobson v. Massachusetts was a Bay State law allowing cities and towns to institute mandatory smallpox vaccination. Jacobson was a Cambridge resident who refused to get his shot; after being fined $5, he took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that the law violated his 14th Amendment right to liberty. The Supremes disagreed, ruling that the mandatory shots were within the state’s power to protect the public health.


About one-third of Bay State drivers still don’t bother with seat belts, according to the US Department of Transportation. A report released late last year calculated that 63.3 percent of Bay State motorists and front-seat passengers use seat belts. Only Mississippi has a lower rate (63.2 percent), while New Hampshire did not submit data to the Transportation Department at all. Arizona has the highest rate of seat-belt use, with 95.3 percent.


Thanks in part to meager wage increases in 2003, Boston ranked an unimpressive 144th among the nation’s 200 largest metropolitan areas in “Best Performing Cities: Where America’s Jobs Are Created and Sustained,” a November report from the Milken Institute. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank, which measured economic growth over a five-year period (1998 through 2003), cited “consolidation in the financial services sector,” specifically Bank of America’s takeover of FleetBoston Financial, as a continuing cause for concern, and noted that the region’s high-tech sectors were “hammered” during the most recent economic downturn. Still, Milken concludes that Boston’s high-tech economy “appears to be stabilizing” and that the region’s ability to raise venture capital bodes well for emerging industries here.

Two other Bay State regions were included on the list, with Barnstable and Cape Cod outranking the Hub, at 51st, and Springfield lagging well behind, at 183rd. The top three New England areas are Portland, Maine (14th); New London, Conn. (38th); and Providence, RI (46th). Fort Myers, Las Vegas, and Phoenix finished at the top nationally.

Among 118 smaller metro areas, Pittsfield finished 81st, with Lewiston, Maine, the highest New England city at 17th. Missoula, Mont., came in first nationwide.