Other Participants


The Breaking Down Barriers and Investing in the Future of the Point Neighborhood Initiative

Salem received a $100,000 seed award for its Breaking Down Barriers Initiative which aims to break the cycle of poverty in the city’s Point neighborhood and raise its income and unemployment figures to citywide averages. The initiative is being led by the City of Salem and includes various cross-sector partnerships.

The Breaking Down Barriers Initiative will create a new system for coordinating resources and services in the Point neighborhood, one of Salem’s lowest income communities. The city aims to eliminate the disparity between the Point neighborhood and the wider Salem community on key indicators such as employment, income, and civic participation. This program builds on an extensive community organizing campaign in the Point neighborhood by increasing voter registration and turnout in this predominantly-Latino neighborhood, as well as by increasing the overall number of Point residents that serve on citywide boards and commissions.


map of massachusetts showing salem


Initiative Partners

 Latino Leadership Coalition,
Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC),
North Shore Community Development Coalition, Inc.,
North Shore Medical Center, North Shore Workforce Investment Board, Point Neighborhood Association, Salem CyberSpace,
Salem State University, The Enterprise Center,
and The Salem Partnership

Learn about Salem

Unlike many older industrial cities, Salem is a major tourist destination that draws more than a million visitors a year from around the globe. The city's haunted history is the main attraction—a quarter-million visitors come in October alone to see the witches. But the fact that it has such a strong "brand" sometimes prevents people from recognizing that there's more to Salem than Halloween and Hawthorne.

photo of salem

Census figures show that Salem's population level has remained fairly stable over the past century: 43,697 in 1910, 39,211 in 1960, and 41,340 in 2010.

Salem MA
Persons under 18 years 18.7% 21.7%
Persons 65 years and over 12.9% 13.8%
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.4% 0.3%
Asian alone 2.6% 5.3%
Black or African-American alone 4.9% 6.6%
Hispanic or Latino 15.6% 9.6%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0.1% 0.0%
Two or more races 3.4% 2.6%
White alone 81.5% 80.4%
White alone (not Hispanic or Latino) 75.9% 76.1%

Salem's story is a tale of two cities—with a growing middle-income, educated population and a growing working-class Latino population. Though more than one-fifth of households (22%) have incomes above $100,000, and almost two-thirds (64%) have at least some college, the poverty rate grew from 9.7% to 14.9% between 2000 and 2011. Percentages of people age 15 to 19 and 55 to 59 each grew by more than 40% between 2000 and 2011.

“Salem is one of the historic treasure-houses of New England. Here are the haunting shades, not only of Nathaniel Hawthorne, but also of every character Hawthorne created, of his old houses impregnated with supernatural influences, and of the eerie atmosphere that still lingers in the narrow streets … Here are the more robust memories of docks and wharves from which poured crude wealth in fish and ships’ supplies, and into which, after many turnovers of cargo, flowed all the exotic treasures of the Indies and China.”

Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People, 1937

photo of salemphoto of salemphoto of salem

Clark University researchers have found that the percentage of foreign-born residents grew by 38.7% between 2000 and 2011. Overall, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates for 2007-2011, 16.8% of Salem residents are foreign born:

  •  6.9% born in Africa
  • 15.0% born in Asia
  • 23.4% born in Europe
  • 50.7% born in Latin America
  • 3.2% Northern America
  • 0.3% Oceania

The American Community Survey five-year estimates for 2007-2011 also show:

  • The rate of homeownership in Salem is 51.7%, compared with 63.6% statewide.
  • Median home value is $320,400, compared with $343,500 statewide.
  • Median household income is $56,203, compared with $65,981 statewide.
  • 87.8% of Salem residents 25 and older graduated high school, compared with 88.9% statewide.
  • 37.6% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree, compared with 38.7% statewide.
  • 12.3% of Salem residents are below the poverty level, compared with 10.7% statewide.
link to city data snapshot of salem

Compare a range of demographic data for Salem’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 salem

Health care, education, and government are major sources of employment. Clark University researchers found that the five largest employers in Salem are:

  • North Shore Medical Center Inc.
  • The Salem Hospital
  • Salem State University
  • City of Salem
  • Salem Public School District

According to Clark University researchers, fully 38% of Salem’s jobs are at its two major hospitals—robust anchor institutions that, together with Salem State University, represent a valuable community asset. Adding to the mix are dozens of smaller employers from a variety of sectors, including retail, the arts, food, hospitality, and light manufacturing. Under development is the $800 million Footprint Power natural gas power plant. And major investments are being made in Canal Street improvement ($16 million) and the Peabody Essex Museum expansion ($220 million).

In addition to being a source of jobs, Salem State University provides a number of resources to the surrounding community and has forged relationships with the business community through its Small Business Development Center, its Center for Economic Development and Sustainability, and its Enterprise Center.

Salem city officials and the North Shore Community Development Coalition are collaborating on a comprehensive plan to revitalize The Point, home to many of Salem’s low- and moderate-income families. Working with the Point Neighborhood Association, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the North Shore Community Development Corporation, residents of all ages are participating in the development of the plan. Innovative approaches include an online game called “What’s the Point?” Among The Point’s assets is a vibrant, ethnically diverse community that has long been welcoming to new immigrants.