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fall river

The University Assisted Public Schools Initiative

Fall River Public Schools is partnering with UMass Dartmouth, Bristol Community College, and the Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry to create the University Assisted Public Schools Initiative to serve as a catalyst for long-term economic development through education reform.  The initiative seeks to increase the graduation rate to 90% and will offer extended learning and professional development opportunities. Among other things, the initiative focuses on strengthening family and community and nurturing democracy by bringing universities and colleges into the school system as partners on a wide variety of initiatives. The initiative will begin with one pilot middle school and will ultimately expand to all high schools.

map of massachusetts showing fall river

Learn about Fall River

Cotton textiles were the original source of Fall River's prosperity and the reason for a population boom during the late 1800s. Three natural advantages combined to make the city a center for cotton manufacturing: "Water-power, a mild, moist climate suited to the weaving of cotton fibers, and a sea harbor adequate for trade shipments," as the Works Progress Administration guide above notes. But the cotton mills began to move elsewhere during the 1920s and 1930s, when mill owners realized that southern states offered the advantage of low-cost, non-union labor. Growing popularity of synthetic fibers also had an impact on the cotton textile industry.

photo of fall river

Census figures show that Fall River's population peaked in 1920 at 120,485 and declined more or less steadily to 88,857 in 2010. The 2010 Census also shows:

Fall River MA
Persons under 18 years 21.5% 21.7%
Persons 65 years and over 15.1% 13.8%
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.3% 0.3%
Asian alone 2.6% 5.3%
Black or African-American alone 3.3% 6.6%
Hispanic or Latino 7.4% 9.6%
Two or more races 2.8% 2.6%
White alone 87.0% 80.4%
White alone (not Hispanic or Latino) 83.4% 76.1%


Clark University researchers report that although Fall River minority populations are small, they are grew rapidly between 2000 and 2010.

"Fall River, strikingly outlined against the sky on a long, steep hill crest across Mount Hope Bay, looks both larger than it is and very foreign. The lofty chimneys of the great stone or brick mills and the soaring stone towers of numerous Roman Catholic churches, especially the twin pagoda-like spires of Notre Dame, give a European tone."

Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People, 1937

photo of fall riverphoto of fall riverphoto of fall river

According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2007-2011, 19.1% of Fall River residents are foreign born, compared with 14.7% statewide.

  • 4.4% born in Africa
  • 10.6% born in Asia
  • 69.4% born in Europe
  • 14.6% born in Latin America
  • 0.9% born in Northern America
  • 0.2% born in Oceania

Most of the foreign-born residents (69.4%) are from Europe, which reflects the fact that Fall River has long been a magnet for Portuguese immigrants. Today, more than 46% of all Fall River residents claim Portuguese ancestry.

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates for 2007-2011 indicate:

  • The homeownership rate is 37.5%, compared with 63.6% statewide.
  • Fall River’s median home value is $252,900, compared with $343,500 statewide.
  • Fall River’s median household income is $34,789, compared with $65,981 statewide.
  • 68.0% of Fall River residents 25 and over have graduated high school, a considerably lower percentage than the statewide figure of 88.9%.
  • 14.1% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree, compared with 38.7% statewide.
  • 21.4% of Fall River residents are below the poverty level, compared with 10.7% statewide.
link to city data snapshot of fall river

Compare a range of demographic data for Fall River’s low- and moderate-income populations. 
Use the tool

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 fall river

According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, as of June 2013, Fall River’s unemployment rate was 12.0%, compared with 7.4% statewide. Clark University researchers found that Fall River’s top five employers are:

  • South Coast Hospitals Group
  • Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River Office of AIDS Ministry
  • Charlton Memorial Hospital Inc.
  • City of Fall River
  • St. Anne’s Hospital Corporation

UMass Dartmouth is an important anchor institution, and Bristol Community College hosts the Center for Workforce and Community Education, which provides employee training for corporate clients. The college also is home to the Academic Center for Entrepreneurship, which “assists community members who are interested in starting a small business or entrepreneurial venture.”

Several economic development initiatives are either up and running or in the works:

Many community leaders also see the South Coast Railway project as a potential engine of progress, given that Fall River is one of only three cities within 50 miles of Boston not served by commuter rail.
Fall River boasts many Portuguese bands and is sometimes called the “City of Bands.” The largest ethnic festival is the Great Holy Ghost Festival, which attracts more than 200,000 people and continues for four days. Also boosting the creative economy: some old mills have been turned into performance centers and artist studios.