The Lawrence Working Families Initiative, led by Lawrence Community Works and Lawrence Public Schools, will seek to change the way the city’s school system interfaces with the larger community with a new focus on the direct correlation between economic and employment challenges amongst families and student success rates. Specifically, the initiative aims to increase parent engagement in schools. A cross-sector group of partners, both local and regional, will invest in the effort, including Northern Essex Community College, Eastern Bank, The Lupoli Companies, Merrimack Valley Federal Credit Union, and New Balance. Among other things, Lawrence Working Families will look at employment issues related to family economic success and stability, creating a new family resource center in the heart of downtown Lawrence.
Learn about Lawrence
In certain ways, 19th century Lawrence was like the industrial cities that have sprung up in China during the past 30 years. It did not start as a farming community or a transportation crossroads but rather as a manufacturing center, built from the ground up, designed to take full advantage of the water power generated by the nearby falls on the Merrimack River.
According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, unemployment in Lawrence was 15.7% as of June 2013,compared with 7.4% statewide. Health care, education, services, and light manufacturing are the mainstays of the city’s economy.
Clark University researchers have found that Lawrence’s five largest employers are:
Despite the recession, Lawrence gained nearly 3% in jobs in the last decade, including a 30% increase, (more than 1,500 jobs) in health care and social assistance.
Census data show that Lawrence’s population peaked at 94,270 and then dropped steadily to 63,175 in 1980 before eventually rebounding to 76,377 in 2010. Lawrence’s population has grown 7% in the last decade alone.
|Persons under 18 years||29.0%||21.7%|
|Persons 65 years and over||8.6%||13.8%|
|American Indian and Alaska Native||1.3%||0.3%|
|Black or African-American alone||7.6%||6.6%|
|Hispanic or Latino||73.8%||9.6%|
|Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander||0.1%||0.0%|
|Two or more races||6.5%||2.6%|
|White alone (not Hispanic or Latino)||20.5%||76.1%|
“From the heights above the Merrimack at Andover the city sprawls, with its forest of chimneys and acres of red-brick factory buildings regimented along the river-bank. The striking uniformity of the city is the result of a made-to-order construction program. For Lawrence is Massachusetts’ only ‘made city.’ In 1845, the Essex Company was formed by a group Boston financiers to utilize the power of Bodwell’s Falls in the Merrimack.”
According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year estimates for 2007-2011, 36.1% of Lawrence residents are foreign born, compared with 14.7% statewide.
The American Community Survey also shows:
Lawrence schools are in receivership but have ambitious and promising plans for turning around, pulling from expert nonprofits locally and statewide.
Although educational attainment in Lawrence is low, the city has seen between 14% and 24% increases in the number of residents with associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees. Young professionals who grew up in Lawrence are choosing to stay and invest in Lawrence. Northern Essex Community college is making major investments downtown, including new green space.
In 2012, a negative article in Boston Magazine sparked "We Are Lawrence," a homegrown effort to recast the city’s image, focusing on positive change in Lawrence. One of the success stories is the Spicket River Greenway, a big project of Groundwork Lawrence.