Focus Communities

Change that’s
Close to Home
Targeting our Focus to Where it’s Most Needed

Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states in the country, however there are stark gaps between those who earn the top 20% and those who earn the bottom 20%. United Way’s mission is to close the income inequality gap to ensure that prosperity is shared equitably. Nearly 300,000 people in our region have incomes that are below the federal poverty rate. More than two-thirds of these individuals live in just 12 cities. That’s why we’re focusing our efforts and resources where they can have the most impact – these 12 vibrant, growing, but historically under resourced communities.

Population Level Metrics


Increasing satisfaction in financial wellbeing among people living in our communities.


Increasing the percentage of households with at least $2,000 in emergency savings.


Decreasing the percentage of households that spend greater than 50% of their income on housing.


Decreasing the percentage of people ages 16-24 who are not enrolled in school or employed.


Decreasing the disparity in income between the 80th percentile and the 20th percentile.


The capital of Massachusetts, Boston is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, with a substantial population of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Caucasians, and various other ethnic groups. Economically, Boston is a powerhouse, fueled by a diverse range of sectors, including education, healthcare, finance, technology, biotechnology, and tourism. Despite its affluence, Boston faces persistent issues of income inequality, spurred by historic segregation in housing, schools and the workforce. In Boston and Suffolk County, 56% of a household median income was required for childcare, as opposed to the United States average of 27%, and 21% of households spent 50% or more of their income on housing, compared to the state average of 16%. Our work in Boston includes partnerships with 64 different agencies across Boston neighborhoods.


Cambridge is a city known for its academic and intellectual population, largely attributed to the presence of prestigious universities like Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The city's demographics are diverse and dynamic, with a mix of students, professionals, academics, and a growing immigrant population from various parts of the world. Cambridge also grapples with issues of income inequality and housing affordability. The cost of living can be high, making it challenging for some residents to afford housing and cope with rising expenses, highlighting the pressing need for equitable development and support systems and accessibility to essential resources. Our Cambridge partners include Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee, Inc. Community Art Center, East End House, Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center, Housing Navigator Massachusetts, Inc., Just A Start, and The Loop Lab.


Chelsea is a diverse and densely populated city located just northeast of Boston. Its demographics showcase a rich blend of ethnicities, with a significant Hispanic and Latino population. The city has a high immigrant population, contributing to its cultural diversity and multilingual atmosphere. Economically, Chelsea has made efforts to revitalize its infrastructure and attract businesses, including industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and logistics due to its proximity to Boston and the Port of Boston. Many residents face economic hardships, struggling with limited access to affordable housing, quality education, healthcare, and well-paying jobs. 20% of the people who live in Chelsea have debt in collections, higher than the state average. In Chelsea, we partner with Comunidades Enraizadas Community Land Trust, Inc. Roca, Inc. , La Colaborativa and The Neighborhood Developers


Haverhill, situated along the Merrimack River, is a city known for its diverse demographics and historical significance, with proud roots as a shoe manufacturer. The population comprises a mix of ethnicities, with a significant representation of Caucasian, Hispanic, African American, and Asian communities. Economically, Haverhill has evolved from its historical roots in manufacturing, to a diversified economy, now incorporating healthcare, education, retail, and emerging technology sectors. However, despite economic growth, the median net worth in Haverhill is just $71,736 – 71% lower than the state average, and more than 18% of the population spends half or more of their income on housing. Local initiatives and community efforts are crucial in addressing these issues and improving the overall economic and social well-being of Haverhill's residents. Our Haverhill partners include Community Action, Inc. And Emmaus, Inc.


Lawrence is a city with a rich multicultural fabric, characterized by a substantial Hispanic and Latino population, including a significant number of Guatemalan, Dominican and Puerto Rican residents. Historically an industrial hub, Lawrence has a thriving entrepreneurial spirit and an energized community, with many small businesses and an up and coming restaurant scene. Its factory mills have been repurposed into housing and commercial spaces and its green spaces are growing and thriving. Despite a community that is energized, cares deeply about issues and is actively engaged, Lawrence has a history of underinvestment. In Lawrence, our partners include ACT Lawrence, Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, Elevated Thought, Inc., Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc., Lawrence CommunityWorks, The Community Group and YWCA Northeastern Massachusetts


Lowell, Massachusetts, is a city with a diverse demographic profile, showcasing a rich tapestry of ethnicities. It is notably known for its large and vibrant Southeast Asian population, including Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Laotian communities. Economically, Lowell has experienced a transition from its industrial roots to a more diversified economy, focusing on healthcare, education, advanced manufacturing, and technology. The city is home to various educational institutions and medical facilities, contributing to its economic growth. However, the median net worth of residents is 73% lower than the state average. In Lowell, we are happy to partner with Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell, Community Teamwork, Fortaleza, Inc., Girls Incorporated of Greater Lowell and UTEC Inc.


Lynn, located in Essex County, Massachusetts, comprises a mix of ethnicities, including a significant percentage of Hispanic, African American, Asian, and Caucasian residents. However, like many other cities in the United States, Lynn has experienced economic shifts and challenges over the years, including the decline of traditional manufacturing industries. This has had an impact on employment opportunities and income levels for many residents, with 37% of residents having less than $2000 in savings. Partners in Lynn include Building Audacity, Camp Fire North Shore, Inc., Essex County Community Organization, Girls Incorporated of Lynn, Gregg Neighborhood House Association, Inc., LEO INC, Love Your Magic, Inc., Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development (LHAND), New American Association of Massachusetts, Inc., Raw Art Works, and The Haven Project, Inc.


Malden, Massachusetts, is a city known for its diverse demographics, reflecting a blend of ethnicities and cultures. The population includes a significant number of Asian Americans, particularly Chinese and Vietnamese communities, alongside a mix of Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups. Its proximity to Boston and accessible transportation routes contribute to its economic development. However, factors such as housing affordability, limited job opportunities, and educational accessibility contribute to the socioeconomic disparities observed in Malden. In particular, 15% of households in Malden spend more than half of their income on housing. Malden partners include Housing Families, Mystic Valley YMCA and YWCA Malden- Center for Women & Families.


Historically, Quincy has had a predominantly Caucasian population, but over the years, it has become increasingly diverse, with a growing Asian American population, including sizable communities of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino descent. Quincy also benefits from its proximity to Boston and the presence of major corporations and academic institutions. Despite its economic vibrancy, 14% of households spend more than half of their income on housing. Housing costs, educational access and income disparities contribute to the issue of poverty in Quincy. Our partner network in Quincy includes NeighborWorks Housing Solutions and Quincy Community Action Program, Inc. (QCAP)


The population of Revere includes a significant number of Hispanic and Latino communities, as well as a growing number of Asian Americans, particularly from countries such as the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Caucasians, African Americans, and other ethnic groups also contribute to the city's multicultural fabric. Economically, Revere has a varied landscape, encompassing industries such as hospitality, healthcare, retail, and tourism due to its coastal location and proximity to Boston. However, poverty remains a pressing issue in Revere, affecting a notable portion of its population. One in five Revere residents have debt in collection, higher than the state average. Addressing these challenges through community-based programs, economic development initiatives, and affordable housing projects is essential for improving the overall well-being and socioeconomic status of residents in Revere. Revere is served by the Mystic Valley YMCA.


Salem is a city with a rich history, famously known for its association with the Salem witch trials. The city’s ethnic makeup is 80% Caucasian, with a small number of African Americans and an even smaller number of other ethnicities. The city's economy is multifaceted, with a strong focus on tourism, maritime industries, healthcare, education, and the arts. However, despite its economic activity, 18% of Salem residents spend more than half of their income on housing. Addressing these issues through community development programs, affordable housing initiatives, and educational reforms is vital to uplift the affected population and enhance the overall prosperity of Salem. In Salem, our partners include North Shore Community Development Coalition and Root NS, Inc.


Historically an industrial city, Taunton has evolved economically, with a focus on healthcare, manufacturing, education, and retail. Resident makeup is mostly Caucasian, with a very small number of African American and Hispanic residents. Taunton’s location at the confluence of several major highways has led to the growth of commercial and industrial sectors. Despite economic diversification, childcare and housing costs remain an issue, with childcare alone claiming 45% of median income. In Taunton, nearly 6% of residents receive cash public assistance, almost double the state average. Addressing these challenges through community development initiatives, job creation, and affordable housing projects is essential to enhance the well-being and economic prospects of residents in Taunton. Agency partners in Taunton include Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro South, Community Counseling of Bristol County and Old Colony YMCA.