• About the Project
  • Indicators: what we track
    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.


    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.


    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.  


    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.  


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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. 


    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.


    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

  • Reports: in-depth analysis
    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.

  • Snapshots & Briefs: quick reviews
    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.

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

  • Tools & Resources: find what you need
    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.
    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!

  • Shape of the City: Boston's future
    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.
    A Lifetime of Opportunity
    Organized into six buckets, the Opportunity Index tracks key indicators of mobility across a lifetime.  Developed to initiate and inform conversations on inequality, this tool will evolve along with conversations on economic and social disparities.

Goals & Indicators:
Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Racial and Ethnic Diversity, Boston
  • Total White Population
  • Black, Asian, Latino & White Populations
  • Total African American Population
  • Total Latino Population
  • Total Asian Population

As of 2010, 53% of Bostonians were people of color compared to just 32% of the population in 1980.  Citywide, 22% of Bostonians were African American, 17% Latino, and 9% Asian Pacific Islander.  The neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan are home to the highest concentration of African Americans in both Boston and Massachusetts while the city’s Latino population mostly resides in East Boston and parts of Jamaica Plain.  Boston’s Asian population is largely concentrated into the small neighborhood of Chinatown as well as the Fields Corner neighborhood of Dorchester.

Foreign-Born Populations
  • Foreign-Born Population, Boston
  • Foreign-Born Population, Boston
  • Foreign-Born Population, Massachsetts
  • Households by Ancestry
  • Households by Ancestry

As of 2010, more than 27% of Bostonians were foreign-born, up from 26% in 2000 and 20% in 1990.  The greatest number of immigrants in Boston live in the neighborhoods of Chinatown, East Boston, and parts of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan where foreign-born residents range from about 30% to 60%.

Statewide, 14.5% of residents were foreign-born with the highest concentrations in Chelsea (42%), Malden (39%), Lawrence (36%), Everett (35%) and Randolph (30%).

In 2010 Irish remained the largest single ancestry reported by Bostonians with more than 100,000 identifying as Irish followed by about 50,000 identifying as Italian and more than 40,000 identifying as West Indian, of which more than 24,000 were Haitian.  An additional 36,000 identify as English, 28,000 as German and about 25,000 as Sub-Saharan African of which more than 10,000 are Cape Verdean.

Opportunities for Civic Discourse, Metro Boston
  • Civic Forums
  • Measure

Greater Boston offers an unusually large number and broad range of opportunities for public dialogue, ranging from small and informal to the technologically advanced, which have only grown in the past few years.  These opportunities range from the formal to the informal, and include free public lectures, panel discussions, and structured settings for small-group dialogues.  Technological advances of interactive websites, email distribution lists, blogs, podcasting and Internet video streaming contribute further democratize access to information and create new forums for the sharing of ideas.

Civic Forums & Lecture Series:

Boston Speaker Series

Boston by Foot

YWCA Community Dialogues

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Trust in Neighbors, Boston
  • Measure

Rates of neighborly trust have increased city-wide but vary across all Boston neighborhoods and over time.  According to the most recent Boston Neighborhood Survey conducted in 2008, nearly 81% of Bostonians surveyed felt that they could rely on a neighbor for help, up from 76% in 2006 and 79% in 2003.  More than 90% of residents in the North End, South Boston and Charlestown felt trust in their neighbors—the highest rate among the City’s neighborhoods.  Though Roxbury (74%), North Dorchester (73%) and Mattapan (70%) continue to have the lowest rates of neighborly trust, rates have increase since 2006 when roughly 65% of residents reported feeling their neighbors were willing to help.

Volunteer Activity, Boston and MA
  • Volunteer Activity, Boston

Bostonians logged more than 63,000 volunteer hours in 2010, down slightly from the peak in 2009 when volunteers logged more than 64,000 hours.  However, since the beginning of the last decade total hours logged have more than tripled from 18,000 in 2000.

During that time, volunteers also stepped up to leverage resources for Boston Cares partner agencies struggling to keep up with increased client needs, generating 30 tons of food for Greater Boston Food Bank and 3,900 pairs of children’s shoes for Room To Grow and Cradles to Crayons.

A sampler of Boston Cares volunteer accomplishments from 2011 includes: providing for the basic daily needs of 90,450 individuals, supporting 1,040 youth through academic tutoring and career coaching, and providing comfort and social stimulation for 400 independent seniors, children in transitional housing and special needs athletes, saving community arts and parks organizations $155,000 through projects that provided affordable access to cultural performances and recreational green spaces for thousands of neighborhood residents and visitors to the region, as well as improving learning, library, and recreational spaces used by almost 20,000 Boston Public School students.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Corporate Leadership Diversity, MA
  • Women as a Percent of Corporate Boardmembers

According to the Boston Club, among the 100 largest companies in Massachusetts in 2011: women comprised 11.1% of board members, down from 11.3% in 2010; 41% had no women board members; and, 29% had no women board members or executives.

The Commonwealth Compact is an initiative of Boston's civic and business community that aims to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of leadership and the workforce at all levels.  As of the most recent Commonwealth Compact Benchmarks Report, in 2008 87% of the 111 organizations submitting data reported that employees of color comprised at least 10% of the workforce, including 22% of high-level management positions and 37% of lower-level clerical and technical positions.  Among companies located in Boston, people of color comprised 37% of the total workforce compared to 21% of the workforce in companies outside of Boston.  Healthcare organizations had the highest level of diversity (44% people of color) followed by nonprofits (37%), for profit corporations (24%) and education (22%).  

Diversity of Elected Leadership in Boston and Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts State House Districts
  • Massachusetts State Senate Districts
  • Gender and Racial Diversity of Elected Officials

Boston: In 2009, the first woman of color, Ayanna Pressley, was elected at-large to the Boston City Council; a position that has been held by just two African Americans, one Latino and one Asian American in the 100 year history of the City Council.  With two vacant at-large positions, the 2009 election drew the largest and most diverse candidate pool in recent years with 15 total candidates, up from 9 in 2007, of whom six were African American, two Latino and one Vietnamese-American candidate.  Among Boston's appointed government officials, the 2007 Benchmark Report on Diversity in State & Local Government by the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy found that 27.8% were African American, 11.5% Latino and 6.6% Asian.  Boston excelled in demographic representation compared to all other municipalities with a high percentage of people of color, with only Chelsea exceeding Boston.  This report has not been updated since 2012.

Massachusetts: Despite many recent "firsts" in in both statewide and municipal electoral representation, leadership across Massachusetts remains predominantly male and white.  According to the most recent data and reporting from the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and the Massachusetts Municipal Association, women comprised just 20.6% of municipal officials in 2007 - virtually unchanged from 20.9% in 1997.  Likewise, 37% of cities and towns in Massachusetts had no women serving in their government bodies and just 7% had achieved gender parity in their leadership corps. Along lines of race and ethnicity, The Benchmark Report on Diversity in State & Local Government found that top-level state-wide and executive appointments are overwhelmingly white: top state-wide and executive appointees are 89% and 91.5% white, respectively, as of 2007.  There has been no update of this report since 2007.
Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Registered Voters and Participation Rates, Boston
  • Registered Voters
  • Ballots Cast
  • Turnout Rate
  • Voter Turnout, 2000-2013

As of 2011, more than 347,000 Bostonians were registered to vote with the largest increases spurred by the 2008 presidential election, 2009 mayoral election and 2010 gubernatorial election.  Though the total number of registered voters fell from the peak of more than 370,000 in 2010, there are nearly 100,000 more registered voters in Boston today than in 2010.

A total of 63,009 ballots were cast in the 2011 City Council election, which typically draw lower turnout than presidential, gubernatorial or mayoral elections.  However, this was a 36% increase over the last City Council election in 2007 when 46,249 ballots were cast.

Neighborhoods with the highest turnout rates for the 2011 election--greater than 30%--were in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, South Boston, West Roxbury and Hyde Park.  The lowest turnout rates--below 14%--were in student-dominated neighborhoods such as Fenway, Allston and Brighton.

Contested Elections in MA
  • Contested Elections

In 2010—the last state-wide election—36 of 40 Senate seats and 88 of 160 Representative seats engaged in a contested battle between at least two candidates.   This is a dramatic increase over 2008 when only 10 Senate seats and 42 Representative seats were in contested elections—the lowest overall rate in the past decade.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Reported Hate Crime by Type, Boston
  • Hate Crimes by Type
  • Hate Crimes by Victim
  • Hate Crimes by Perpetrator

The Boston Police Department's Community Disorders Unit investigated 180 incidents classified as hate crimes in 2009--the most recent year for which data are available--down from 229 in 2005 but up slightly from 177 in 2008.  The majority of incidents, 36, were racial harassment and epithets, up from 15 incidents in 2006 and crimes against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) individuals at 36 down from 51 in 2007.

The majority of hate crime victims were African American, with 64 incidents up from 33 in 2006, followed by GLBT at 36 and white victims at 31.  The lowest number of crimes was instigated against Asians with just 6 incidents.

The majority of incidents, 89, were perpetrated by a white individual followed by 49 incidents perpetrated by an African American individual and 35 in which the perpetrator's race/ethnicity was unknown.

Degree of Residential Segregation
  • Residential Segregation by Race/Ethnicity

Boston and the region remain largely segregated along lines of race and ethnicity, despite growing diversity. People of color and newcomer immigrants are highly concentrated in Greater Boston’s “gateway” cities. 

Within Boston, the neighborhoods of Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the North End, South End and West Roxbury remained more than 60% white in 2010.  By contrast, people of color comprise more than 80% of the population in areas of Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and East Boston.

As of 2010, cities & towns with the highest percentage of African American residents were: Randolph at 377; Brockton at 30%, Boston at 22%, and Springfield at 19.5%.  Since 2000, the greatest increase in African American residents has been in Randolph, +16.5%, Brockton, +13% and Everett, +7.5%.

Quincy had the highest concentration of Asians at 24% followed by Lowell and Malden with 20% and Lexington with 19.8%.  The greatest increase in Asian population was in the suburbs of Boston.

In 2010, Lawrence had the highest concentration of Latinos at 74%, followed by Chelsea, 62%, and Holyoke 48%.  The Latino population is growing the fastest in Revere, +15%, Lawrence +14% and Lynn +13.7%

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
People Living at the Same Address, Boston Neighborhoods
  • Percent Households the Moved in Between 2000-2004, Owners
  • Percent Households the Moved in After 2005, Owners
  • Percent Households the Moved in Between 2000-2004, Renters
  • Percent Households the Moved in After 2005, Renters

Boston continues to have a highly mobile population.  As of 2010, 73% of all householders had moved into their current residence since 2000, with 41% of householders having moved into their current homes since 2008.  Among households who moved since 2008, 88% were renters, a more highly mobile population.

Neighborhoods with the largest percentage of renters who moved in after 2000 are Fenway/Kenmore (81%), Allston/Brighton (68%) and East Boston (59%).  Neighborhoods with the largest proportion of owner households that moved in after 2000 are Charlestown (28%), West Roxbury (28%), Hyde Park (27%) and South Boston (24%).

Small Business Loans by Race and Gender
  • Small Business Loans
Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Linguistic Isolation & Multilingual Access
  • Linguistically Isolated Households
  • Linguistically Isolated Spanish Speaking Households
  • Linguistically Isolated Asian Language Speaking Households
  • Households by Language Spoken at Home

As of 2010, 35.5% of Bostonians spoke a language other than English in the home; 15% of the population over age 5 speaks Spanish or Spanish Creole, 12% speak other Indo-European languages, 7% speak and Asian/Pacific Island Language and 2% some other language.

Among those who speak a language other than English in the household, more than 33% are linguistically isolated—equal to more than 11% of all households in Boston.

The Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians continues to offer an interpreter pool at City Hall drawn from the staff of city departments to assist with licenses, permits, tax information, and consumer concerns. Translation in 24 languages is available, including Spanish, Chinese, French, Haitian, Cape Verdean, and Vietnamese.

Universal Accessibility
  • Accessibility of Boston's Insitutions

Universal Design of the city and its buildings is essential to ensuring quality of life for the roughly 12% of Bostonians (about 70,000) with audio, visual, cognitive, ambulatory or self-care difficulties with consideration of needs across life stages.  In the same time, some 5% of children under 18, 9% of the working-age population aged 18 to 64 and 43% of those 65 years and older had some disability.

A number of resources are available in Boston for those of all abilities, including:

Institute for Human Centered Design, formerly Adaptive Environments, is a Boston-based design and advocacy organization promoting universal design locally and globally.

City of Boston Commission for Persons with Disabilities oversees all ADA compliance in the Boston and provides access to resources in housing, travel, employment, education and community outreach;

Mass Office of Travel and Tourism lists all accessible travel and points of interest that are accessible to people with disabilities

Massachusetts Office on Disability supports key state initiatives such as ADA compliance, Community Access Monitor Training, the Model Employer Initiative and more.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Library Books in Circulation BPL
  • Boston Libraries and Population Under 18
  • Circulation by Boston Public Library Branch

Total circulation for the Boston Public Library continued to grow through FY2010 to more than 3.4 million, a 3.5% increase over FY2009.  Nearly 1.3 million of books circulated were from the central library and neighborhood branches with the highest circulation in FY10 were Jamaica Plain (164,310), Honan-Allston (164,077) and West End (156,548).  However, the branches with the largest year-over-year increase were Grove Hall (+116%), Mattapan (+74.3%) and Parker Hill in Roxbury (+22.7%).

Community Newspapers by Linguistic Group
  • Ethnic and Community News Sources

Boston maintains a strong community-based newspaper system with more than 70 special interest services.  Of those, 24 are ethnic papers making the news available in just as many languages; 28 are neighborhood papers that keep residents up-to-date on the issues pertinent to the community.  Boston also has many free entertainment news magazines and special interest bulletins to keep people connected.  Click here for a complete list of Boston community newspapers from Boston Online or click here for the complete New England Media Directory provided by the Ethnic Media Project at UMass-Boston.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Nonprofits by Budget and Type
  • Nonprofit Organizations by Budget & Type
  • Annual Growth Rate in Number of Public Charities
  • Per Capita Nonprofit Charity Revenue
  • Compound Annual Revenue Growth Rate

There were 3,871 public charities registered in Suffolk County in 2011, about 16% of Massachusetts’ total of 23,828 according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics.  

Budget: The majority of organizations, 2,508, in Suffolk County are Grassroots Organizations with a budget size of $250,000 or less. Safety Net Organizations with budgets between $250,000 and $50 million comprise 1,282 of all organizations, with most (580) in the smaller side with a budget between $250,000 and $1 million.  There are 81 organizations in Suffolk County that are considered "Economic Engines" with budgets over $50 million.

Organization Type: About one-third (1,207) of organizations in Suffolk County are Social Services such as community capacity-building, housing & shelter, and youth sports & recreation organizations.  The additional two-thirds are other societal benefit organizations such in the Arts (444), Education (599), Environment (121), Health Care & Medical (620), Philanthropy (186) and Other nonprofit organizations (694).  Education and Health Care organizations make up the five largest organizations by employment in Suffolk County : Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston University and Children’s Hospital.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Strength of the Philanthropic Sector
  • Total Number of Philanthropic Organizations
  • Total Foundation Assets
  • Total Foundation Giving
As of 2011 there were 23,828 organizations in the philanthropic sector--including foundations--registered in Massachusetts, up from 21,062 in 2003, according to the report Passion & Purpose Revisited.  The philanthropic sector had more than $52 million in revenue and held more than $62 million in total assets in 2011.

According to the most recent data available from Foundation Center, the number of charitable foundations in Massachusetts increased from 1,895 in 1997 to 2,413 in 2009 and total giving increase from $373 million to $1.2 billion over the same time, though this does not capture the trends since the recession.