• 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.
Highlights: Analysis of Key Trends and Challenges

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. The sector includes businesses focused on environmental health or energy generation, local planning departments, expert consultants in a range of environmental and energy fields, nonprofit groups and foundations, environmental science departments at local colleges and universities, K-12 environmental education and out-of-school programs, and environmental justice organizations.


The 47-square mile City of Boston sits at the confluence of the Charles, Neponset and Mystic Rivers, whose combined watersheds include 57 cities and towns and drain an area of more than 400 square miles. Boston’s largely urbanized environment also boasts the deep water Boston Harbor and thousands of acres of forested and landscaped parks, active wetlands, community gardens and urban farms.

Boston’s formal open space system includes more than 7,000 acres of protected land, with more than 215 parks and playgrounds owned and managed by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, 2,200 acres managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. In addition, the nonprofit Boston Natural Areas Network owns, manages and protects more than 175 community gardens and 1,400 acres of urban wilds within the Boston City limits.

The Boston Environment Department, with encouragement and support from Mayor Thomas M. Menino, is making Boston a leader in green policies, standards and initiatives among its counterparts nationally and globally – from setting goals for the greenhouse emissions of municipal buildings and fleets to the nation’s first green building code.     

The state’s environmental health and policies are under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Its responsibilities range from Department of Agricultural Resources, Coastal Zone Management and Division of Conservation Services to the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Energy Resources, Department of Fish and Game, Energy Facilities Siting Board and Board of Registration of Hazardous Waste Site Cleanup Professionals.

These statewide resources are complemented by local offices of federal environmental agencies such as the New England regional offices of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Regional resources Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and its MetroFuture plan for the year 2030, local planning departments, foundations and nonprofit groups.

The Barr Foundation and Kendall Foundation, in particular are focusing their resources on developing policies and programs for a greener, more sustainable and more environmentally equitable future in Boston and New England. 

Boston Harbor represents an environmental success story. The Boston Harbor clean-up, which began in the mid-1980s in response to a law suit brought by the Conservation Law Foundation, took more than a decade and almost $4 billion to complete. Since then, the region’s coast has experienced a renaissance. Today, just 45 minutes by ferry from downtown Boston is Boston Harbor Islands National Park, which includes more than 30 islands, and Boston’s urban waterways area among the cleanest in the nation.

The renewed health of the Charles River and the Boston Harbor marine environment and revitalization of Greater Boston’s shore land owes much to the tireless commitment of three dedicated nonprofit organizations.  The Charles River Watershed Association, founded in 1965 and one of the nation’s oldest watershed organizations,  uses all tools at its disposal, including science, advocacy and the law, to protect, preserve and enhance the Charles River and its watershed, working with 35 Massachusetts watershed towns from Hopkinton to Boston. Save the Harbor/Save the Bay is an organization of thousands of citizens, scientists, and civic, corporate, cultural and community leaders working to restore and protect Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Bay, and the marine environment for the enjoyment of the public.  The Boston Harbor Association, formed when the League of Women Voters joined the Boston Shipping Association to create a new non-profit organization to clean one of the dirtiest US harbors in the 70’s, is now focused on completion of Boston’s HarborWalk along the edge of six waterfront neighborhoods, and on the potential effects of climate change-related storm surges that threaten Boston’s waterfront.

These bulwarks of Boston’s environmental activism have been joined by neighborhood groups from Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) in Roxbury, focused on environmental justice and on the engagement and mobilization of young people to the Boston Tree Party, dedicated to planting food-bearing trees throughout the City. 

Boston is also home to or the beneficiary of statewide environmental organizations, from the venerable Trustees of Reservations, Appalachian Mountain Club  to the Environmental League of Massachusetts and Conservation  Law Foundation. 

Newer organizations are also tackling new environmental threats and opportunities. These include the Massachusetts Business Leadership Council, A Better City (ABC), working to strengthen the region’s mass transit systems, Second Nature and its American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, CERES, which works with business to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change, and E2, a powerful business voice for green jobs and policies affiliated with the National Resource Defense Council