• 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.

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.  Levels of consumption, savings and investment among the for-profit, non-profit and public sectors across localities and income groups determine an economy’s dynamism, equilibrium, fairness and sustainability. The “real economy” refers to the production, use and exchange of actual goods and services, while the “paper economy” describes the activity of financial markets.


Unusual among US cities, Boston is the financial, cultural, economic and governmental capital of Massachusetts and the economic hub of New England – a “small large city” with outsized global reach. One of the first cities to shift from a manufacturing to knowledge base, Boston today is a global node of innovation centered on its high concentration of institutions of higher education and health care, with a robust regional network of innovation economy clusters from high tech to biotech. Boston is also a very livable city, with a beautiful natural built environment, recent infrastructure investment and revitalized neighborhood business districts.

These assets both reflect and attract a disproportionate share of high-skilled talent, federal R & D funding, venture capital and business spin-offs. They also create a two-tiered economy that richly rewards those with a good education and harshly punishes those without.

Boston’s economy anchors the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). With about 4.5 million residents as of the 2010 US Census, the Boston metro region ranks 10th in the nation in population. The Boston-Worcester-Manchester/Nashua Combined Statistical Area (CSA) region and economy, with more than 7.6 million residents, ranks fifth.

The nation’s 22nd largest city, with a population of about 620,000 in 2010,  Boston is job-rich, with about and about 680,000 jobs, and city doubles its workforce with commuters. As of 2010, about 38% of those with a job in Boston resided within the city limits, 52% commuted from Greater Boston and about 10% commuted from Providence RI, Nashua NH, York ME or beyond. Boston contains less than 10% of Massachusetts' population but about 16% of its jobs and generates about 20% of its tax revenues. Moreover, in 2008, Boston generated more than $87 billion in total economic activity, accounting for 24% of Massachusetts' total economic output and 10% of New England’s.

As Massachusetts’ governmental capital, Boston also contains the central offices of state agencies mandated to strengthen the state’s economy and competitiveness such as the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, which includes the Massachusetts Department of Economic Affairs, the Massachusetts Office of Business Development and the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment, the agency charged with promoting trade and investment with global partners in Massachusetts and around the world. In addition, the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism works closely with the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau to boost the region’s Hospitality and Leisure sector.

The Commonwealth’s economic development resources are augmented by federal agencies with New England-wide regional offices such as the US Small Business Administration, the new Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, with its New England Public Policy Center, which provides a high quality research capacity to inform regional policy and practice.

Boston’s primary economic agencies are the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), primarily responsible for planning and downtown development, and the Department of Neighborhood Development, which oversees many of the City’s economic policies and programs. 

Greater Boston and Massachusetts benefit from a robust network of business leadership and advocacy organizations, with missions that range from improving the business climate generally to stimulating innovation and achieving “triple bottom line” goals of jobs, profits and environmental sustainability. They range from  the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), Massachusetts Business Roundtable  to the Massachusetts High Tech Council, Massachusetts Alliance for Business Leadership, Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC),  and Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP).

Increasingly, Boston’s workforce training needs are being addressed through collaborative strategies developed among local businesses and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Commonwealth Corporation, the Boston Private Industry Council, regional vocational-technical high schools, community colleges such as, in Boston, Bunker Hill Community College and Roxbury Community College, four-year institutions of higher education and special initiatives such as Skill Works, a funder collaborative.  These resources are augmented by targeted  programs such as YouthBuild Boston, which trains low-income young people to learn job skills by building affordable housing in their communities. The Commonwealth is also learning to leverage the economic dynamism of immigrants’ skills, aspirations and entrepreneurship through such organizations as the Immigrant Learning Center. 

The new economic dynamism and in some cases transformation of Boston’s neighborhoods reflects the hard work of Boston’s 26 community development corporations, which are members of the Massachusetts Association of CDC’s and among the most innovative and accomplished in the nation.  Together or singly, they have renovated anchor buildings, built and renovated affordable housing and planned and constructed mixed-use transit-oriented developments -- many over decades.

Recent examples of their impact include the collaborative revitalization of Dudley Square in Roxbury, the redevelopment of Jackson Square in Jamaica Plain and planned five-CDC collaboration in housing and commercial development surrounding the five new or renovated stations on the MBTA' new Fairmount/Indigo Line and breakthrough projects as the Pearl Street Food Center in Uphams Corner.

Other essential organizations, too, are dedicated to strengthening Boston’s neighborhood economies. These include the City of Boston’s Main Streets Program, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the Boston Community Loan Fund, Interise and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. These organizations, often through public-private partnerships or in close collaboration with Boston’s CDC's, local banks and public agencies, have revitalized many of Boston’s neighborhood business districts over two and sometimes three decades. Increasingly, Boston's 22 health centers also serve as economic anchors in their neighborhoods, and new ones are increasingly being designed to play that role, such as the Mattapan Community Health Center.

Greater Boston’s innovation economy’s eco-system of talent and expertise, social and professional networks, venture capital and business start-ups is deep and resilient and continues to expand and diversify in such places as Cambridge's Kendall Square, Route 128 and Boson's Longwood Medical Center, the Boston Innovation District and pockets throughout the region.

Boston’s economic resources are augmented by its wealth of world-renowned business schools and economics departments, from Harvard’s Business School, MIT’s Sloan School, BU’s School of Management, Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration, the University of Massachusetts-Boston’s College of Management, business programs at Bentley and Babson colleges and research institutes.

A number of new organizations have formed in the region to incubate new ideas and businesses. Mass Challenge, a public-private partnership, runs an annual global accelerator program and startup competition for novice entrepreneurs and is proving to be a highly effective exemplar locally and globally. It has been joined by the MassTLC Innovation unConference and Harvard’s Innovation Lab (I-Lab), which encouraging innovation across disciplines and facilitates commercialization. The Cambridge Innovation Center offers state-of-the-art facilities and services to small and growing businesses and the Boston Innovation Center, on Boston’s waterfront, offers a public space for innovators and entrepreneurs to meet, exchange ideas, and convene programs and events. The website and blog BostInno offers a rich platform for information and dialogue about Boston’s innovation eco-system and a new media approach to news.