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The Worcester Succeeds: No Limits - No Excuses Initiative

The Worcester Succeeds: No Limits - No Excuses Initiative, led by the city’s Regional Chamber of Commerce, seeks to reduce unemployment, reduce the community’s high school dropout rate, and increase college attendance. The initiative will coordinate a new pilot program which will offer certificates and adult basic education (ABE), guidance counseling, and wraparound services that will encompass effective and relevant child and family care. The initiative will also provide a participant’s children or grandchildren the opportunity to receive enhanced financial assistance at a local university. Partnering organizations include the Martin Luther King Jr. Opportunity Center, Community Legal Aid, and Worcester State University.

map of massachusetts showing worcester

Learn about Worcester

The wealth generated by Worcester's past industrial base also helped turn the city into a major cultural center. Well into the 20th century, Mechanics Hall, for example, was an obligatory stop for any performing artist or public figure visiting the region.

Although in recent decades Worcester experienced much of the same economic dislocation typical of other postindustrial cities, it has managed to refashion a diversified and relatively healthy economy. The second-largest city in New England, it boasts more economic strength and activity than many Working Cities and was recognized by Boston Fed researchers as a "resurgent city" in a 2009 paper.

photo of worcester

Census data show that Worcester's population peaked in 1950 at 203,486, and then declined to 161,799 in 1980 before rebounding to 181,050 in 2010.

Worcester MA
Persons under 18 years 22.1% 21.7%
Persons 65 years and over 11.7% 13.8%
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.4% 0.3%
Asian alone 6.1% 5.3%
Black or African-American alone 11.6% 6.6%
Hispanic or Latino 20.9% 9.6%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander <0.1% 0.0%
Two or more races 4.0% 2.6%
White alone 69.4% 80.4%
White alone (not Hispanic or Latino) 59.6% 76.1%

"To the visitor the first impression of the mid-State metropolis will be one of tremendous activity, commercial and industrial. This impression will, however, soon be supplemented by the realization that Worcester is equally a cultural center, interested in the arts, in higher learning, and in historical research."

Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People, 1937

photo of worcesterphoto of worcesterphoto of worcester

According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates for 2007-2011, 20.6% of Worcester residents are foreign born, compared with 14.7% statewide.

  • 19.0% born in Africa
  • 25.7% born in Asia
  • 18.8% born in Europe
  • 35.0% born in Latin America
  • 1.1% born in Northern America
  • 0.3% born in Oceania

The American Community Survey also shows that:

  • The homeownership rate is 46.6%, compared with 63.6% statewide.
  • Worcester’s median home value is $234,400, compared with $343,500 statewide.
  • Median home value grew 46% between 2000 and 2011, or $70,598, despite the housing downturn.
  • Median household income is $45,846, compared with $65,981 statewide.
  • 83.9% of Worcester residents 25 and over have graduated high school, compared with 88.9% statewide.
  • 30.1% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree, compared with 38.7% statewide.
  • 19.0% of Worcester residents are below the poverty level, compared with 10.7% statewide.
link to city data snapshot of worcester

Compare a range of demographic data for Worcester’s low- and moderate-income populations. 
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in-depth data dashboard pdfs

Check out detailed stats on income, employment, education, health, and more provided by Clark University researchers for the Working Cities Challenge.

photo of worcester

According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, as of June 2013, Worcester’s unemployment rate was 9.7%, compared with 7.4% statewide. Forty-five percent of Worcester’s jobs are in educational or medical institutions (“meds and eds”), sectors covering more than half of the city’s largest nonprofits. In fact, while employment in manufacturing was declining 36% over the past 10 years, employment in educational services was growing by 27% and employment in health care and social assistance by 16%.

Clark University researchers have found that Worcester’s five largest employers are:

  • UMass Memorial Hospitals, Inc.
  • City of Worcester
  • Worcester School District
  • Worcester Episcopal Housing Company Limited Partnership
  • Saint-Gobain Ceramics & Plastics, Inc.

In addition to University of Massachusetts Medical School, several institutions of higher learning enhance Worcester’s economic and cultural life:

Worcester has an innovative program that creates incentives for buying a home. Called Buy Worcester Now, the approach has been a model for similar cities. Other initiatives by local institutions aim to link neighborhood success to school success, including Clark’s University Park Partnership Scholarship, which offers free tuition to any eligible resident of Worcester who has lived in the University Park neighborhood for at least five years prior to enrolling at Clark University.

Like many of the Working Cities, Worcester was home to a failed urban shopping mall. The Worcester Center Galleria, created as an urban renewal project in 1971, was closed in the 1990s and languished on a large property near the city core. Now the city is working with developers to create a plan for CitySquare in that location, a multiuse commercial and residential property that will be anchored by Unum (formerly Paul Revere Life Insurance) and the St. Vincent Hospital Center for Cancer Services. The project represents one of the earliest uses of the state’s District Improvement Financing, which finances infrastructure improvements with a mechanism for capitalizing future tax revenues. 

On the education front, Worcester has recently received national attention for hosting an innovative effort that provides special equipment, training, support, and cash incentives for public high school students who take advanced placement courses and tests in math and science—and their teachers. The effort has significantly increased the numbers of students taking and passing the advanced exams.