• 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.
    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!

Highlights: Analysis of Key Trends & Challenges

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.  Education includes early learning in the home and community as well as formal institutions at all levels – from early education and PreK- 12 public school districts, charter schools, private and parochial schools to public and private two- and four-year institutions of higher education, continuing and adult education programs, technical training, union apprenticeships and advanced professional degrees. In addition to teachers and students, the sector includes parent organizations, teachers’ unions, after-school and summer programs, academic departments of education and research institutes, advocacy organizations and volunteer groups. 


Massachusetts is the nation's premier education state, with the nation's best educated workforce and highest scores on a number of key measures of educational quality and attainment. However, more than is true in most states, Massachusetts has two parallel systems of education: public and private. Many of its private schools, colleges and universities rank among the world's best, as do some of its public institutions. The preeminence of the state's private schools over decades and centuries obscured the need for comparable excellence in Massachusetts public education system. However in light of current global economic and demographic trends, reform is now in process.   

Public education in Boston reflects and adheres to statewide policies and standards coordinated by the new Massachusetts Executive Office of Education, established in 2008 by Governor Deval Patrick, which coordinates previously independent departments, including:

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), which supports a network of local and regional early childhood education and caretaking organizations, provides financial support to low-income families with children and licenses EEC programs statewide.

The Massachusetts Department of  Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) , which oversees nearly one million public elementary and secondary school students in 393 school districts as well as curriculum frameworks, teacher licensure, approval and oversight of Charter Schools, Adult Basic  Education (ABE), Community Learning and English classes (ESOL, and the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and is the link to Federal programs and policy such as Obama’s Race to the Top stimulus funding for education.

• The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) oversees policies and works to improve outcomes regarding the more than 290,000 students enrolled at one of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ 29 public colleges and universities: 15 community colleges; 9 state universities; and 5 University of Massachusetts campuses – Boston, Lowell, Dartmouth, Worcester and the UMass Medical School, and Amherst, the system’s flagship.

Increasingly, Massachusetts' public education systems at all levels are linked by a shared longitudinal data system that will allow the Commonwealth and its school districts and public higher education institutions to track individual students needs and progress.

The Boston Public Schools (BPS) is the nation’s first public school system and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ largest school district.  Boston’s pre K – high school students total about 79,000 in the 2012/13 school year. Of those, the vast majority, attend a public school – either a Boston Public School, a public charter school or a suburban public school  – and about 11,000 attend a private or parochial school, are home schooled or are placed by the BPS Special Education Department in non-BPS schools and programs.

The BPS, with a total projected enrollment of 57,811 for the 2012/13 school year, is comprised of 134 schools from Pre-K through high school. It includes some of the best-performing schools in the nation, such specifically the competitive Boston Latin and Boston Latin Academy, and schools struggling to improve student performance that rank near the bottom statewide.

To meet the needs of its students, of whom about 75% are eligible for free- or reduced price meals and about 86% are of color, about 40% are English language learners and about 20% have learning or physical disabilities, the BPS offers six early learning centers (K- 1), 53 elementary schools (K–5), 23 elementary & middle schools (K–8) , 10 middle schools (6–8), two middle and high schools (6–12), 29 high schools (9–12), one elementary through high school (K-12)  – including three competitive “exam” schools (7–12), six special education schools (K–12), and a number of alternative programs for at-risk students including Alternative Pathways and Community Academy among others.

An increasing number of schools are designed to expand school, teacher and programming autonomy, with greater flexibility and freedom in decision-making and resource allocation. Of these: 11 are historically low-performing Turnaround Schools serving 5,699 students in school year 2012/13, which received added flexibility and resources through Boston’s portion of the Commonwealth’s Race to the Top award; six are Expanded Learning Time (ELT) schools serving 2,297 students;  six are Horace Mann schools serving 1,075 students and 18 are Pilot Schools which serve 6,513 students.

The BPS also offers a Newcomers Academy for recently-arriving immigrant and English Language Learner students and a range of vocational-technical opportunities at Madison Park High School.  Another 3,341 Boston students attend public school in a number of suburban school districts through Boston’s METCO program.

In addition to the Boston Public School District, public schools in Boston includes Commonwealth Charter Schools, some of which rank among the best in the nation. Together, Boston’s 23 charter schools serve 6,265 Boston students selected by lottery. Most Charter Schools have long waiting lists, and expansion of the number of charter school “seats” by lifting the current cap on their expansion is advocated by many.

Private and parochial schools make up the remainder of schools serving Boston students, with 19 private schools serving 3,315 students in the 2012/13 school year and 24 parochial schools serving another 7,648 Boston students. In addition, 568 students are served by other schools.

Greater Boston is home to 74 institutions of public and private higher education—from universities such as the University of Massachusetts Boston, MIT, Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Tufts  to excellent liberal arts colleges and specialized professional schools such as the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Wheelock, Simmons, Wheaton, Emerson and Berklee, and a network of community colleges for  a combined regional enrollment of more than 260,000 students annually.  Of these institutions, 35 are located within Boston’s city limits, including Roxbury Community College and Bunker Hill Community College.

Many local colleges and universities contain schools or departments of education that form part of the local teacher and school leadership training system  -- Harvard, Lesley, Wheelock, UMass-Boston, Boston College – while community colleges offer AB degrees in early childhood development and early education. Other  institutions offer specialized research expertise to the field, such as the Harvard School of Education’s Center on the Developing Child and UMass Boston’s ethnically-focused research institutes, the Mauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Development, the Institute of Asian American Studies and the William Monroe Trotter Institute.

Teachers in Boston are represented by the Boston Teachers Union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. Statewide, local teachers unions belong to either the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) or the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts.

Many young teachers are drawn from Teach for America. Aspiring new teachers  also have access to the innovative Boston Teachers Residency program.

Boston’s education sector is enriched by local and statewide advocacy and research organizations such as Massachusetts Advocates for Children, Strategies for Children, and Stand for Children, the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and the Massachusetts Center for Budget and Policy, which now coordinates KidsCount Massachusetts.  

Progress on educational attainment among those groups with historic educational disadvantage is advancing through collaborative initiatives and public-private partnerships. One example is the Boston Opportunity Agenda, which is designed to boost school and student performance and outcomes in Boston across the educational pipeline. Another, Success Boston, aims to increase BPS graduates’ rates of college entry and completion. Finally, the Vision Project, an initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Education, is designed to boost results through methodical measurement, the adoption of best practices and comparisons with nationwide outcomes.

Educators, researchers, policy makers, advocates and parents will soon be able to track the progress of students, schools and teachers through i-PASSPORT (Massachusetts Information Providing Accelerated Student Success from Preschool to Occupations in Real Time), a new longitudinal data and information system funded by a $6 million State Longitudinal Data Systems grant from the US Department of Education to improve the data collection process and,  over time,  enable the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to implement a School Interoperability Framework.