Most likely, “Sterling” is a 53-year-old white woman born in Massachusetts earning $73,000 per year from her professional career, living with 2 other people in the $340,000, oil-heated home she owns.
Mrs. Sterling is a composite based on census data and estimates. But as we know, averages don’t tell the whole story. After all, the average temperature in Sterling is 48 degrees, which certainly doesn’t explain either January or August. Let’s look a little closer.
How many of us live in Sterling?
There are 7,954 of us, according census.gov. We have 2,762 households, averaging 2.82 people. Roughly four out of five households are families. Most people over the age of 15 are married.
Most of us- 85%- live in houses we own. The median home price is $340k. Three quarters of us have a mortgage. A quarter of us are housing cost burdened, meaning we spend more than 30% on our housing. Our inventory of affordable housing is 68 units, out of 2,857 total for the town.
Where are we from?
About 4% of us are foreign born, and 3/4 of us were born in Massachusetts.
2/3 of people age 16 and older have jobs. Educational services, health care and social assistance employ 24% of us; 18% of us work in professional, scientific, administrative and waste management jobs. Manufacturing accounts for12% of our jobs.
Nearly everyone is a high school graduate. Half of us have a bachelor’s degree, and one in five has a graduate or professional degree.
Are we getting by?
Our mid-point household income is $104,000, with 20% of households above $200k and 20% below $50k. 5.5% of us are in poverty. They are a bit richer over in Princeton, with $121k midpoint income. But they are poorer in all other nearby towns. The median income in Worcester County is $67k.
How old are we?
Our median age is 45 years – half of us are older, half are younger. 25% are younger than 18; 25% are 18 to 44 years; 34% are 45 to 64 years; and 16% are 65 plus. The biggest age groups are the 10% of men who are 45-49, and the 12% of women who are 50-54.
Just like the rest of the USA, our town is getting older. In 2000, the midpoint of our ages was 38 years. We’ve gained quite a few younger people, or our median would have grown higher.
What’s it like being old in Sterling?
The 65+ crowd in Sterling is healthier than Massachusetts seniors, with fewer incidences of depression, hypertension, arthritis, osteoporosis, COPD, and tobacco use disorders. Still, 13% live with dementia. Income is greater than $50k for 55% of seniors, but 12% live in poverty, and 30% are employed. 232 grandparents live with grandchildren under the age of 18, and 16% of seniors live alone. Women are 60% of the senior population, and almost 5% of Sterling is women aged 85 and older.
Are we growing?
Sterling had its big growth spurt during the 1950’s, when we grew 4.7% per year. Lately, our growth has slowed to less than 1% per year, about 60 or so people. We issued 12 building permits for new residences in 2018. Rutland and Lancaster have grown a bit faster than us since 2000, Princeton and Clinton much more slowly. But we’re all growing.
What will Ms. Sterling look like in 10 years?
Older? Still working? Bigger household? Richer? The answer depends on how Massachusetts continues to grow, and also on Sterling’s Master Plan and ordinances. Will we allow denser housing that is more affordable, so that your grown children can afford to live here? Or will we encourage high end residences that help our tax base? Will we be spending more on programs that help our seniors stay here, or more on schools and recreation? Or all the above? These are our decisions, at Town Meeting and in our Master Plan which will be under development for many months to come.
Written for Keeping Sterling, a group committed to the future of Sterling. Susan came to Sterling because of its farms and forests and wants everyone to appreciate all that makes Sterling what it is.