• About the Project
  • Indicators: What We Measure
    Sectors
    What is Civic Vitality?
    Civic vitality reflects a community’s connectedness and bonds of trust, or social capital, created through neighborliness, friendship, kinship, civil discourse and collaboration. These are strengthened by places to gather, open access to information, opportunities for civic and electoral engagement, effective leadership and philanthropic giving -- although these same assets can be used to exclude outsiders.

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    What is Cultural Life & the Arts?
    The Cultural Life & the Arts sector reflect a community’s cultural vibrancy –it includes all of its diverse ethnic traditions and festivals, opportunities for art and music making and enjoyment, venues for the performing and visual arts, architectural heritage, museums and public art.

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    What is the Economy?
    An economy is the sum total of an area’s production, distribution, consumption and exchange of goods and services resulting from investments of labor and financial capital in the use of that area’s natural, human and technological resources.  

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    What is Education?
    Education is the process by which skills, knowledge and values are transmitted from teacher to student while, at the same time, each student’s potential to think and act logically, creatively and critically is being developed.  

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    What is Environment & Energy?
    The environment encompasses an area’s natural resources – land, air, fresh and marine water, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and the commercial and recreational uses they support – and their intersection with energy sources for and emissions from transportation, commerce, industry and home heating and cooling systems, along with the local effects of global climate change.

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    What is Health?
    For an individual, health is physical and mental freedom from acute illness, chronic disease and injury reflecting a good diet, adequate exercise, environmental and behavioral safety and genetic good luck. Individual health outcomes are greatly affected by socio-economic and community-level factors such as access to affordable healthy food, opportunities for exercise, recreation, supportive relationships, degree of exposure to environmental toxins and unsafe conditions, and the quality of one’s education and housing.

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    What is Housing?
    Housing meets the basic human need for shelter; for most households it is a major expense or investment that can lead to economic security or insecurity. Housing is also a fundamental building block of livable, vibrant communities and, when blighted it is a source of community destabilization.

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    What is Public Safety?
    Public safety is the peace of mind that results from the effective prevention of and/or response to events that endanger or threaten both individuals and the general public with physical, emotional or financial harm. Public safety encompasses both violent and non-violent crime, from domestic and street violence to cyber-security and white-collar crime.
    What is Technology?
    Technology is the development and use of tools, methods and skills to achieve a goal. From arrowheads and the control of fire to ploughs, wheels, engines and computer chips, new technologies change our relationship to the natural world and to the ways in which we live, work, connect and create. 

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    What is Transportation?

    Transportation is the movement of cargo -- people, animals or material goods – from one place to another. Modes of transportation in contemporary life include walking, bicycling, cars, buses, trucks, aircraft, freight and passenger trains, subways, ships and boats.

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    Crosscut Topics
    Boston Neighborhoods
    Boston is a city of neighborhoods – some, like Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan, are as large as some of Massachusetts’ bigger cities, while others, such as Charlestown, are town-sized. Within each of Boston’s sixteen neighborhoods, designated by the Boston Redevelopment Authority as Boston’s official planning districts, are micro-communities, each with its’ own unique characteristics, populations, assets, and challenges.  
    Children & Youth

    Children mirror a community’s values, progress and challenges. If a community’s children are thriving, it is likely that the whole community is doing well. The Boston Indicators Project tracks progress through 2030—Boston’s 400th Anniversary - when many of today’s children and youth will be civic, political and business leaders and their children will be in school.

    Competitive Edge

    The Greater Boston region has a long history as a birthplace of revolution and innovation and is packed with firsts - the nation’s first public park and public library, breakthroughs in medicine and “green” building.  With a newly revitalized waterfront and some of the nation’s - and the world’s - top colleges and universities, the region - with Boston at its core - attracts students from around the world and top-tier talent in all fields to its dynamic  and diversified knowledge economy.

    Fiscal Health
    This cross-cut filter measures fiscal health in several ways: by tracking municipal, state and federal funding as well as levels of philanthropic giving to the nonprofit sector.  In a high-cost city such as Boston, the financial health of individuals and families is another important measure of the fiscal stability and health of the region.
    Race & Ethnicity
    Issues of race and ethnicity - in Boston and elsewhere - generally emerge on two fronts: one is the cultural richness that racial and ethnic diversity contribute to a city and region; the other is persistent disparities in education, health and economic status.  People of color have often faced inequitably high hurdles to educational and economic advancement.
    Sustainable Development

    Sustainable development refers to patterns of growth that integrate environmental and human health, economic dynamism, and social cohesion and equity.  Sustainable development is multi-dimensional by definition: biodiversity health; the availability of jobs at a living age; regional and per capita carbon dioxide emissions; the availability of fresh water and open spaces; etc.  All of these factors increase the quality of life.

    View the Entire Framework
    Complete Framework

    The Boston Indicators Project’s comprehensive Framework of indicators and measures reflects an intensive, participatory selection process that included hundreds of Bostonians and reviewed by thousands more. Beginning with positive goals for the future, these data-rich indicators and measures provide an objective way to assess current conditions, trends over time and patterns of relationships, as well as outcomes for specific groups, neighborhoods, the City of Boston and the Metro Boston region.  The Complete Project Framework can also be re-sorted into crosscutting topics and civic agenda goals.

    View the Complete Framework of Indicators

  • Our Reports: Key Findings
    City of Ideas: Reinventing Boston's Innovation Economy

    The 2012 Boston Indicators Report shows that standard top-level economic indicators don't tell us everything we need to know about the state of jobs and equity in our local and regional economy. We need to reinvent Boston's innovation economy through greater opportunity and shared prosperity.

    Read Our Past Publications Chronicling Boston from 2000-2009

    The Boston Indicators Project produces biennial reports chronicling Boston's accomplishments and the full array of challenges facing the city and region.  These reports build on expert and stakeholder convenings, data analysis, and reviews of recent research. Over the years, they have helped to catalyze an on-going set of conversations throughout the community about our region's economic competitiveness and the key challenges facing Boston.

    The Measure of Poverty: A Boston Indicators Project 2011 Special Report

    The Measure of Poverty was released in September 2011.  Findings show that the rates of poverty in Boston changed very little over the last twenty years, but is more deeply concentrated in single-parent families in particular neighborhoods. State and local budget cuts due to the recession may have long-term consequences in mitigating the effects of poverty.  The Boston Indicators Project released another special report in 2008, Boston’s Education Pipeline: A Report Card, which provided a comprehensive view of the entire arc of Boston’s system of educational opportunities and outcomes, with an update in 2011.

  • Community Snapshots: Boston Neighborhoods to the Region
    Neighborhoods & Planning Districts

    The City of Boston is comprised of 16 Planning Districts and 26 neighborhoods, each with a unique history and identity.  

    This portion of the site is coming soon. For facts and figures about Boston Neighborhoods see the Boston Neighborhood Topic Crosscut Page.

    City of Boston

    The City of Boston is comprised of 16 Planning Districts and 26 neighborhoods, each with a unique history and identity.  


    Metro Boston Region
    The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) region includes 101 cities and towns. Learn about the region.  

    This portion of the site is coming soon. In the meantime check out the MetroBoston DataCommon for facts and figures about the MAPC region.
    Massachusetts

    This portion of the site is coming soon. In the meantime check out the MetroBoston DataCommon for facts and figures about Massachusetts.

  • Tools & Resources: Data, Mapping & Research
    Learn more about a topic or do your own analysis through access to research, reports, data and analytical tools.

    Explore our digital library, which archives research reports, journal articles, newspaper clippings, blog posts, media coverage, and more about Boston, the region, nation and world.  Search all by using our sector and crosscut topics as filters.
    Learn more about a topic or do your own analysis through access to research, reports, data and analytical tools.


    Find other data-rich websites and analytical tools.
  • Shaping The Future: Civic Agenda 2030 & Innovations
    By aligning our resources and efforts, we can each make a difference in shaping the future.
    Greater Boston's Emerging Civic Agenda, created by hundreds of experts, policy makers and community stakeholders over ten years, offers as set of coherent data-driven strategies to move the region forward.  It is organized in four areas, with goals and measurable milestones.
    By aligning our resources and efforts, we can each make a difference in shaping the future.
    What are the best ways to solve the pressing challenges of our city, region, country and planet?  The Hub of Innovation profiles a set of breakthrough solutions from the region, nation and world. 

    Nominate a breakthrough!


Who We Are

Charlotte Kahn, Co-Founder & Director Emeritus

Charlotte Kahn co-founded the Boston Indicators Project at the Boston Foundation in 1997. Recently retired, she was its director since 2000. Previously at the foundation, she coordinated Boston’s participation in the Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored Persistent Poverty Project, a six-city poverty alleviation initiative.

Charlotte is a long-time member of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, and past President of the Community Indicators Consortium, and was a member of the Editorial Board of State of the USA (SUSA). She is also a co-founder of the Open Indictors Consortium (OIC), coordinated at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, through which teams in twelve US regions are collaborating to develop and deploy a high-performance open source data analysis and visualization platform, Weave.

Prior to working at the Boston Foundation, Charlotte served as Director of the Education Fund of the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts. For thirteen years prior to that, she was the Executive Director of Boston Urban Gardeners, an organization she co-founded during Boston’s school desegregation crisis, dedicated to improving the quality of life in Boston’s low-income neighborhoods and public housing developments through community gardens, open space planning, job training and youth development programs. Earlier still, she worked for an educational film company and for the Atlantic magazine.  

Charlotte attended Cornell University, holds a Masters degree from Antioch University, and was awarded a Loeb Fellowship in Advanced Environmental Studies by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.


Jessica Martin, Research Director

Jessica Martin has been a member of the Boston Indicators Project at the Boston Foundation since 2006, most recently as the Research Manager where her primary focus is data collection and analysis supporting the project’s goals of democratizing data, tracking progress on shared civic goals and producing biennial reports on the state of Boston, its neighborhoods and the region. Jessica has also contributed to occasional special reports of the Project, focused on topics such as education and poverty.  In her role at the Foundation, she contributes to the on-going, data-driven impact assessment of the Boston Foundation’s core strategies and initiatives. Prior to joining the Foundation, Jessica was an analyst in the private sector.  She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the John W. McCormack School of Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and resides in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.


Nse Esema, Digital Communications & Research Associate

Nse Esema joined the Boston Foundation in the fall of 2012 after receiving a Masters in City Planning  from MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning. There, much of her coursework was focused on data analysis and mapping. Previously and while at MIT, Nse completed a range of mapping projects and facilitated community stakeholder participation in urban planning initiatives both domestically and internationally. Her local projects included an analysis of the nexus of crime incidence and mortgage foreclosures in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood of Dorchester and an analysis of the impact of Metro Boston’s land use and transportation patterns on regional sustainability. Nse was born in Nigeria and has lived in the US since age seven. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in Urban Studies.