The Pursuit of Happiness

A Survey on the Quality of Life in Massachusetts

Published Date : May 1, 2004
Author(s) : Larry Hugick and Jenny Armeni

The Pursuit of Happiness: A Survey on the Quality of Life in Massachusetts highlights data from a 1,001-person statewide poll conducted for MassINC by Princeton Survey Research Associates (margin of error: + or – 3%). Respondents were asked more than 60 questions related to their own and the state’s quality of life, their views on key policy issues, and problems impacting their families.

Seventy-one percent of Massachusetts citizens rate the quality of life in the Commonwealth as good to excellent (29% excellent/very good, 42% good), while only about three in 10 (28%) rate it fair to poor.

Residents are specific with their criticisms. Of the 14 areas they were asked to rate in the survey, majorities saw the need for improvement in 12 of them. The top five areas rated in need of major improvement are:

Availability of affordable housing 54%

Roads and traffic situation 50%

The way the health care system is working 49%

Affordability of college education 48%

Amount of taxes an average family has to pay 47%

Only 15% believe the state’s quality of life has improved over the last five years. Forty-four percent believe it has stayed the same, and 38% believe it has gotten worse.

One-quarter of respondents would move out of Massachusetts if given the opportunity.

A decade into education reform, more than half (57%) of all parents are very satisfied with their youngest child’s school, and only 5% are not satisfied at all.

The belief that average families need tax relief is most commonly held by people of color (57%), working mothers (57%), and those who identify themselves as working class or poor (54%).

More than 40% of all respondents rank their personal financial situation as either fair or poor.

Parents are particularly concerned for their children’s futures. Eighty-six percent say that the state needs to improve the affordability of a college education. Seventy-three percent worry that their children won’t have access to good jobs.

Seventy-seven percent of citizens report feeling very safe in their homes at night, and 53% feel very safe when walking in their neighborhoods at night.

Married residents largely find they are able to balance work and family. Only six percent report being unsatisfied with the time they spend with their children and their spouses. Women are significantly more satisfied than men with the time they spend with their children (60% vs. 39%).

Families are grappling with many of the same concerns across the state’s regions – finances, higher education affordability, the tax burden, and the way the health care system is working – but there remain stark differences in perceptions and worries depending on where they live. Top regional issues needing major improvement:

Greater Boston Housing affordability 60%

Southeastern Massachusetts Higher education affordability 53%

Central Massachusetts Amount paid in taxes 48%

Western Massachusetts Availability of good paying jobs 47%

Newcomers – a diverse, young, educated population who moved to Massachusetts in the last decade – emerge as a group to watch because of their economic and social value to the state. Their specific concerns about the state’s cost of living endanger their longevity as residents. One-third state they would leave if given the opportunity.

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