Westford privilege: the economic disconnect many WA students don’t realize


Sophia Keang

Does “Westford privilege” really exist? There’s an economic disconnect between many WA students and the outside world.

Sophia Keang, Editor-in-Chief

It is no secret that Westford is a distinctly “well-off” town. With a median Westford household income of nearly $162,000 and a median home value of $590,800, the town is clearly home to those who are able to live a “comfortable lifestyle”.

When I moved to Westford in the fifth grade, it was already clear to me that I felt so out of place. As my new classmates shared what they did over the summer, kids mentioned their trips to their house on Cape Cod, their annual Disney World vacation, and let’s not forget their lavish travels to the world’s most exotic countries and islands. And what did I do? Well, besides moving to a new house, I went to my old neighborhood’s community pool. That’s what I shared.

I had never truly realized there was an economic disconnect between Westford residents and the rest of the world until now, when I’ve reached my senior year of high school. While I had always known that everyone came from “different backgrounds,” I didn’t realize how big of a difference it truly was.

Many WA students have the privilege of not having to worry about such financial burdens students in neighboring towns and cities have. While prioritizing education is one of many WA students’ top priorities, more often than not, we fail to realize the privilege of having that be one of the most important things in our lives.

Understanding that there are obviously other external factors that can still affect WA students, whether that be a family illness or a loss of a loved one, it would be ignorant not to mention that our problems are valid. However, failing to acknowledge the economic leverage many WA students have is similarly ignorant.

Oftentimes, it can seem like WA students are carbon copies of one another: so extremely academically focused, believing that the only way to succeed is to get into a “good college,” whatever that may mean. And the thing is, our parents support that. They will do anything for us to stay focused in school, paying hundreds of dollars for SAT prep classes and spending thousands so we can attend the “prestigious” high school summer program.

Before moving to Westford, I never knew people, personally at least, who used housemaids on a weekly basis or hired people to shovel their driveways for them in the winter. I’d only ever known the housemaids themselves. Additionally, many of my peers would discuss the daily dinner plans that consisted of them eating out at restaurants often. Before I started to manage my own finances in terms of gas money and spending money, I’d never realized how much money it costs to eat out at these fancy restaurants my classmates would go to in Boston. A lot of WA students grow up believing that these things are normal, but we’re just numb to the privilege. Additionally, the amount of money spent on kids’ extracurricular activities such as playing a club sport, taking dance lessons, music lessons, or even participating in the robotics team can be costly.

The amount of money parents invest in their kids is actually eye-opening to the fact that there is a real economic divide between Westford residents and the rest of the world. Think about it: the city of Lowell is only a 15 to 20-minute drive from Westford where the median household income is only $64,489 compared to Westford’s, which is $161,076. This is nearly a difference of $100,000.

Because of the privilege we have, we don’t have to worry about getting a job to help pay the bills. We get a job so we can earn money for a new pair of shoes, trendy makeup, or gas so we can hang out with our friends and spend more money. While I’m not saying we aren’t working hard for our earnings, we simply have a different purpose for it—and that’s where our privilege comes in. We live in a town where it is normal, or at least it’s not surprising to know, that people own vacation homes with boats.

As we come from an already financially stable background, we fail to realize our privilege. I know this sounds like our parents lecturing us about “being grateful”, but we should. We have the PRIVILEGE to be so talented on the piano, in soccer, or simply not have to worry about finances until later in our lives.

While our parents remind us every day to be grateful for everything we have, it often goes in one ear and out the other because of how repetitive it becomes. But they’re right. WA students become too caught up in their academics and fulfilling their resumes with a surplus of extracurricular activities that we forget that there’s a whole world outside getting an A in calculus or becoming president of that club we joined in freshman year.

What I’m trying to say is that we should acknowledge this privilege. I think WA students tend to isolate themselves in the “Westford bubble” and we sometimes forget that there’s a world outside of academics and winning the next tennis match. There’s more to life and we have to understand that.