Transportation, safety, amenities like the arts and the environment all contribute to the quality of life in Essex County. Available data show a lack of transportation options to be a major challenge, while crime has been declining.
The vast majority of residents of Essex County drive to work, with 79% driving alone to work and another 9% carpooling. A small, but increasing share of residents use public transportation or bike or walk to work. Nearly 31,200 households in Essex County, comprising 11% of the county’s total, do not own a car. This is a lower rate than the state as a whole (at 12%), but still concerning given challenges with public transportation in the county. More than 1 in 5 households in Lawrence (24%) and Lynn (22%) were without cars.
In 2017, 86% of households in Essex County have access to the Internet, on par with the state and greater than the national rate of 80%. However, Internet access was considerably lower within certain communities in the region. In Lawrence, only 76% of resident had Internet access in 2017, a decrease of 4 percentage points from the prior year.
The crime rate in Essex County has declined slightly since 2008. In 2017, the rate of reported crimes against people was 7.9 per 1,000 residents, lower than the statewide rate of 9.3, and down from 8.4 in 2016. More notably, the rate of crimes against property was 19 per 1,000 residents in 2017, down from 30 in 2008 and 24 in 2014. The rates of crimes against people and crimes against property in Essex County are a bit lower than the statewide rates, and slightly above the figures in Middlesex County.
At 1.3 arrests per 1,000 residents, the drug-related arrest rate in Essex County in 2017 was similar to the statewide rate of 1.1 during the same year and more than double the rate found in Middlesex County.
The rate of reported victims of domestic violence in Essex County in 2017 was 2.9 per 1,000 residents, even with the rate in 2011 and down slightly from the prior year. While lower than the statewide figure, the rate of domestic violence in Essex County has been higher than the rate in Middlesex County.
In 2017, an average of 22 residents per 10,000 were incarcerated in Essex County, greater than the statewide rate of 17, and over 3 times greater than Middlesex County. The recidivism rate in Essex County declined, among inmates released in 2014, 28% returned to prison within 3 years, down from 42% of inmates released in 2009. The decline in Essex County matches a statewide figure over the same time period.
Voter participation was 64% in the 2016 elections presidential election. The turnout rate in 2016 was similar to previous presidential elections since 2000. Voter participation in the county over the past two elections is similar to Middlesex County and a bit higher than the statewide figure.
Charitable giving has declined in Essex County since 2011. In 2016, Essex County residents contributed 1.4% of their income to charitable organizations, a decrease of 3% since 2011, and lower than the state and national charitable donation rates of 2.0% and 2.3%, respectively.
Over $918 million was spent on travel and tourism in Essex County in 2016, good for $1,180 per county resident. This was an 11% increase for the county since 2006. Essex County's increase since 2006 was slightly higher than the state's.
In 2017, 88% of days with air quality measurements in Essex County were categorized as good air days, similar to the rate in 2016 and a 20 percentage point increase from 2000. Still, Essex County lags behind Middlesex County (96%) in terms of air quality.