Data Brief: Frontline Workers in the 495/MetroWest Region
The 495/MetroWest Partnership and our research partners, the Public Policy Center at UMass Dartmouth (PPC), are pleased to present a data brief aimed at generating a better understanding of who has been working on the frontlines of the pandemic in the 495/MetroWest region.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the nation has become highly dependent on “frontline workers,” defined for the purposes of the data brief as people whose essential jobs must continue functioning and cannot be done from home. Specifically, the brief included workers in six critical industries:

  • Grocery, Convenience, and Drug Stores, which provide food and medicine to the general population

  • Public Transit, which drive buses and trains to allow other frontline workers to commute to their jobs

  • Trucking, Warehouse, and Postal Service, which delivers essential goods and supplies to the necessary locations such as hospitals and stores

  • Building Cleaning Services, which maintains and sanitizes potentially contaminated spaces

  • Select Health Care, including doctors, nurses, and health professionals directly caring for patients

  • Social Services, which provide much needed supportive and emergency services to families and individuals in crisis or at-risk of entering a crisis
Key findings of the study include:

  • The largest frontline industry in the 495/MetroWest region is Select Health Care, representing about 59% of the region’s frontline workers

  • Frontline workers represent approximately 17 percent of the region’s total workforce. Comparatively, frontline workers account for 20 percent of the workforce in Massachusetts as a whole

  • Frontline workers are significantly more likely to be women; while the region’s overall workforce is split evenly between men and women, two-thirds of the region’s frontline workers are women. Women, in turn, are more likely to be family caregivers for children and elderly family members

  • Over half of frontline workers are paid less than $50,000 annually

  • Workers in Grocery, Convenience, and Drug Stores; Public Transit; and Building Cleaning Services are more likely to earn less than $25,000 annually

  • Workers in the Building Cleaning Services industry, who are also more likely to be immigrants and people of color, have the lowest rate of health insurance enrollment

The brief was prepared by the PPC on behalf of the Partnership as part of ongoing follow-up work the Partnership leads for the Suburban Edge Community Commission (SECC). The SECC was established by the Legislature in 2015 to study challenges to development in communities along I-495. These challenges included transportation, water, energy infrastructure, transit services, residential development, reuse of former industrial facilities and historic mills, brownfields reclamation, downtown redevelopment and other constraints.

About the Public Policy Center at UMass Dartmouth
The Public Policy Center at UMass Dartmouth is the University’s applied social science research, technical assistance, and public service unit based in the College of Arts and Sciences and affiliated with its Department of Public Policy. An interdisciplinary applied public policy research and technical assistance provider, the Center seeks to inform evidence-based policymaking at the state, regional, and local level through collaborative engagements with public, private, and non-profit partners. The Center is supported by a highly experienced team of professionals who leverage the skills and expertise of UMass faculty, staff, and students to meet the needs of our clients and partners.   
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if the Partnership can be of any assistance to you. You may reach me directly via email at [email protected] .

Jason Palitsch
Executive Director
The 495/MetroWest Partnership