Where children are born can affect their chances for a strong start in life. Babies need good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences to foster their healthy brain development and help them realize their full potential.
This state profile provides a snapshot of how infants, toddlers, and their families are faring in each of these three policy domains. Within each domain, view data for selected child, family, and policy indicators compared to national averages. The profile begins with a demographic description of the state’s babies and families to offer the broadest context for exploring what may be very different experiences of the state’s youngest children.
Infants and toddlers in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is home to 212,910 babies, representing 3.1 percent of the state’s population. As many as 25.8 percent live in households with incomes less than twice the federal poverty line (in 2019, about $51,500 a year for a family of four), placing them at economic disadvantage. The state’s youngest children are diverse and are raised in a variety of family contexts and household structures.
*Numbers are small; use caution in interpreting.
Note: N/A indicates Not Available
How are Massachusetts’s babies faring in Good Health?
Supporting babies’ and mothers’ physical and mental health provides the foundation for infants’ lifelong physical, cognitive, emotional, and social well-being. Babies’ brains grow rapidly in the first years of life, and, in these early years, the brain works with other organs and organ systems to set the stage for subsequent development and health outcomes. Equitable access to good nutrition during the prenatal period and first years of life is key to ensure that babies receive the nourishment and care they need for a strong start in life. Strengthening equitable access to integrated, affordable maternal, pediatric, and family health care is also essential to meeting babies’ and families’ health and developmental needs.
Massachusetts falls in the Working Effectively (W) tier for the Good Health domain. A state’s ranking is based on indicators of maternal and child health, including health care coverage, prenatal care, birth outcomes, and receipt of recommended preventive care as well as food security, nutrition, and mental health. Massachusetts performs better than national averages on key indicators, such as the infant mortality rate and the percentage of babies experiencing food insecurity. The state is performing worse than the national average on the percentage of mothers reporting less than favorable mental health.
Key Indicators of Good Health
Good Health Policy in Massachusetts
All Good Health Indicators for Massachusetts
How are Massachusetts’s babies faring in Strong Families?
Young children develop in the context of their families, where stability, safety, and supportive relationships nurture their growth. All families may benefit from parenting supports, but children and families of color face numerous challenges as a result of racism that impact their everyday life, which are exacerbated even more for children and families living in households with low income. Many policies can be designed to address these disparities by race, ethnicity, and income, including the provision of safe and stable housing, home visiting services, family-friendly employer policies, economic support for families with low income, and tax credits that benefit families with young children.
Massachusetts falls in the Working Effectively (W) tier of states when it comes to indicators of Strong Families. The state’s ranking in this domain reflects indicators on which it is performing better than the national average, such as the percentages of babies who have had one or two or more adverse experiences. Massachusetts is doing worse than the national average on indicators such as the percentage of babies who could benefit from home visiting receiving those services and the rate of babies experiencing maltreatment.
Key Indicators of Strong Families
Strong Families Policy in Massachusetts
All Strong Families Indicators for Massachusetts
Positive Early Learning Experiences
How are Massachusetts’s babies faring in Positive Early Learning Experiences?
Infants and toddlers learn through interactions with the significant adults in their lives and active exploration of enriching environments. The quality of infant and toddlers’ early learning experiences at home and in other care settings can impact their cognitive and social-emotional development, as well as early literacy. High-quality early childhood care can strengthen parents’ interactions with their children in the home learning environment and support parents’ ability to go to work or attend school. Equitable access to high-quality care across factors like race, ethnicity, and income ensures all infants and toddlers have the opportunity for optimal development; however, disparities in access to high-quality care remain across many states and communities in the United States.
Massachusetts scores in the Improving Outcomes (R) tier for Positive Early Learning Experiences. The state’s ranking in this domain reflects indicators on which it is performing better than the national average, such as the higher percentage of infants and toddlers receiving the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part C services. Massachusetts is doing worse than the national average on indicators such as the lower percentage of infants and toddlers below 100 percent of the federal poverty line with access to Early Head Start. Infant care costs as a percentage of the state’s median income for single and married parents also contribute to the ranking.