Other Participants


The Lawrence Working Families Initiative

Lawrence received a $700,000 three-year implementation award for the Lawrence Working Families Initiative, which is creating a Family Resource Center designed to increase parent income by 15 percent in the Lawrence Public School System over a 10 year period. The Center is also providing families with access to resources and opportunities that facilitate economic security and progress over the next ten years.  Additional services will include specialized adult education and certificate training, scholarships, employer internships, financial coaching, and expanded access to child care and healthcare. The initiative will also dramatically increase parent engagement in the schools.


The initiative is led by Lawrence Community Works and Lawrence Public Schools, with support from employers such as the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, New Balance, Solectria, Merrimack Valley Federal Credit Union, and Lawrence General Hospital, among others.

map of massachusetts showing lawrence



Initiative Partners

City of Lawrence, Compass for Kids, Family Service Inc.,
Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Groundwork Lawrence, Lawrence Public Schools, Merrimack Valley Federal Credit Union, Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board, New Balance,
Northern Essex Community College, Stevens Foundation,
and The Community Group

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.

photo of lawrence

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:

  • City of Lawrence
  • Lawrence General Hospital
  • Polartec LLC
  • Northern Essex Community College – Lawrence
  • Home Health Foundation, Inc.

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.

Lawrence MA
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%
Asian alone 2.5% 5.3%
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 42.8% 80.4%
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.”

Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People, 1937

photo of lawrencephoto of lawrencephoto of lawrence

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.

  • 1.1% born in Africa
  • 7.7% born in Asia
  • 3.1% born in Europe
  • 87.5% born in Latin America
  • 0.6% born in Northern America
  • 0.0% born in Oceania

The American Community Survey also shows:

  • The homeownership rate is 32.5%, compared with 63.6% statewide.
  • Lawrence’s median home value is $241,700, compared with $343,500 statewide.
  • Median household income is $31,478, compared with $65,981 statewide.
  • 64.7% of Lawrence residents 25 and over have graduated high school, compared with 88.9% .statewide.
  • 11.7% of residents have earned a bachelor’s degree, compared with 38.7% statewide.
  • 28.6% of Lawrence residents are below the poverty level, compared with 10.7% statewide.
link to city data snapshot of lawrence

Compare a range of demographic data for Lawrence’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 lawrence

The city’s Community Development Department has developed a consolidated plan for 2010-2015 that takes a four-pronged approach:

  • Strategic Investment. Pursue opportunities for planning, leveraging, utilizing, and expanding resources at all levels.
  • Asset Building. Pursue opportunities for wealth creation at all levels.
  • Neighborhood Improvement. Pursue opportunities for preservation, development, and improvements that create healthy, diverse neighborhoods.
  • Household Stability. Pursue opportunities to support Lawrence residents to reach their full potential.

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.