The Boston Indicators Project offers new ways to understand Boston and its neighborhoods in a regional, national and global context. It aims to democratize access to information, foster informed public discourse, track progress on shared civic goals, and report on change in 10 sectors: Civic Vitality, Cultural Life and the Arts, the Economy, Education, the Environment, Health, Housing, Public Safety, Technology, and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
This portion of the site is coming soon. In the meantime check out the MetroBoston DataCommon for facts and figures about Massachusetts.
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!
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.
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.
The strength of the nonprofit sector is bound directly to the strength of the philanthropic sector, with many of the Commonwealth's more than 30,000 nonprofit organizations reliant on Foundation and individual giving to sustain their work.
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.
By Industry: As of 2011 Q1, Boston’s dominant industries were Education & Health Services, with nearly 170,000 employees in 2011; Professional & Business Services, with more than 90,000 employees; and Financial Activities, with more than 73,000, together accounting for more than 60% of Boston’s 550,000 jobs. Within these super sectors are detailed industries describing specific goods produced and services rendered, such as Software Publishers, employing nearly 1,000 in the Information super sector. Boston’s largest detailed industries were: Medical & Surgical Hospitals, at 69,242 employees; Colleges & Universities, at 33,208; and Financial Investment Activities, at 19,569.
By Occupation: As of 2010, Boston's largest occupation categories were Office & Administrative Support positions at 90,640, Health Practitioner & Technical positions with over 53,000, Business & Financial occupations with about 49,000 and Food Prep & Serving occupations with more than 45,000 workers.
Data coming soon...
Hotel Market: the Boston/Cambridge area hotel market improved on all key metrics from 2010 to 2011: occupancy increased from to 77% from 76%, the average room rate increased to $199.02 from $193.22 and the revenue per available room (RevPAR) increased to $153.24 from $146.27. Growth is projected to continue through 2012, to a 78% occupancy rate, $216.93 average room are and $169.20 RevPAR.
In 2010 the share of aggregate income held by Boston’s top 20% of households increased to 56% in 2010, up from 54% in 2009 and the share held by the top 5% of households remained steady at about 26% of total income earned in Boston in 2010. The bottom 20% of household held just 1.7% of aggregate income in 2010, down from 2.2% in 2009.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is constitutionally required to end each fiscal year with a balanced budget. In times of economic growth and expansion, this may provide the state with a surplus to save, spend or reinvest, but at times of economic contraction, declining revenues often require a reduction in spending resulting in cuts to programs that support the social safety net.
In FY12 the Commonwealth’s budget was more than $34 billion, a 4% decline since FY09 when adjusted for inflation. Rising unemployment, declining wages and reduced purchasing power associated with the Great Recession have left the Commonwealth—along with every other state—with a budget deficit for the fourth year running of $1.9 billion for FY12 down from $5 billion in 2010. However, the loss of Federal Stimulus Funding in FY11 meant that a larger share of the budget gap had to be filled with program cuts leaving crucial services to low-income residents underfunded, includining:
In FY11, Massachusetts’ budget shortfall was 5.7% of its total projected expenditures—which ranked it 5th lowest among all of the states. By comparison, states with the highest deficit-to-expenditure ratio had double-digit shortfalls: Nevada, 45% of total expenditures; New Jersey, 37%; Texas at 30.5%; and California at 29.3%.To close the revenue gap, the Massachusetts Legislature drew down part of the state’s Rainy Day Fund foresightedly built up during the good years. However, in FY10, the Legislature voted for a sales tax increase, which was projected to raise $1 billion from FY10 through FY12.
The fiscal health of the City of Boston not only impacts the provision of basic services, such as housing, transportation and sanitation, but also the capacity to invest in the arts, community economic development and new technology that make Boston a world-class city.
As of FY12, the City of Boston’s total budget was balanced with $2.394 billion in revenues and expenses after posting a budget surplus of $5.91 million in FY11 and $9.09 million in FY10. The proposed budget for FY13 is balanced at $2.454 billion, a 2.5% increase over FY12. Overall, expenditures have been rising faster than revenues, having increased by 7% and 6.6% respectively between FY10 to FY13.
Revenue: Growth in revenue has been driven by property tax levy which increased by 14% from $1.475 billion in FY10 to a projected $1.675 billion in FY13, a 40% increase in excise taxes from $103 million in FY10 to a projected $145 million in FY13, and a 27% increase in Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) from $34.9 million in FY10 to $43.5 million in FY13. Over the same time, local aid from the state declined by 6% from $413 million in FY10 to $388 million in FY13.
Expenses: Health care costs comprise 12% of total FY13 expenditures and have contributed the most to the growth of costs over the last decade. From FY01 through FY15, health insurance costs are projected to rise by 135% compared to a 39% increase in all other city costs over the same time. Other high-growth expenditures include: other post-employment benefits by the City of Boston have doubled from $20 million to $40 million between FY10 and FY13; total pension payment increased by 25% from $108 million to $135 million from FY10 to FY13; and total debt service payments increased by 10% from $125.5 million to 137.5 million.
The City of Boston is comprised of 77 different departments organized into 13 mayoral cabinets:
The city of Boston also includes non-Mayoral agencies such as the Boston Housing Authority and the Water & Sewer Commission and Intergovernmental relations with the state and county.
The Massachusetts Department of Early Education & Care supports the health, well-being and development of children from the earliest ages. As a part of the Executive Office of Education, EEC provides oversight, licensure and workforce development for early childhood educators, provides financial assistance for family child care, supports the Head Start program and engages parents and community members in the education of the youngest children.
The Department of Early Education & Care received more than $506 million in funding in FY12, which is roughly the same amount received in FY10 and 11. However, this is a reduction from the decade-long peak in FY09 when EEC received more than $569 million.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) is charged with oversight of students from grades K through 12 enrolled in 1,829 public schools, 62 Commonwealth Charter Schools, 10 Horace Mann Charter Schools and 30 Education Collaboratives as well as thousands of teachers, principals and administrators. Chapter 70 of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act allows for a more equitable distribution of funding to school districts based on need while all other funding for K-12 education can be used for supplemental resources.
Massachusetts Chapter 70 funding fell slightly in FY12 to $3.9 billion from a high of near $4.1 billion in FY11. However, total funding is up from just over $2.9 billion in FY01. Non-Chapter 70 funding for K-12 education has been inconsistent over the last decade, but increased in FY12 to over $511 million from $423 million in FY11. However, funding remains below the peak of $583 million in FY09.
Despite consistently strong funding for K-12 Education, recent research has found that nearly every extra dollar allocated to school districts through Chapter 70 has been off-set by the increasing cost of employee health care.
The state and the Boston region have many outstanding parklands - and maintaining them requires a regular infusion of funding. As in other areas, deferred maintenance often leads to higher costs, and in the case of parkland, the lack of maintenance also often leads to disuse for recreational purposes and a transition to unwelcome and unsafe use.
Funding for Parks and Recreation statewide has also fallen steadily over the last few years, to $71.5 million in FY12 from a peak of $139 million in FY06. However, funding in FY12 was higher than the low in FY05 of $71 million.
Funding for the determinants of health—such as education, the environment and public health—have a greater impact on well-being by reducing high-cost preventable disease, but is often crowded-out by the high-cost health care.
Health care costs have grown at a rate well beyond overall spending, crowding out all other investments in key determinants of health. Between FY01 and FY12, total health care spending increased by 64% while total spending increased by only 13% after inflation.
Over the same time, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health budget was cut by 25%, funding for public higher education was reduced by 28%, funding for environment and recreation declined by 33% and the 2% increase in K-12 spending was completely absorbed by school districts’ rising health care costs.
Next to housing, transportation is typically the second largest cost burden on a family. Nationally, for every dollar a working family saves on housing, it spends 77 cents more on transportation. This shows the basic tradeoff many working families face between paying a greater share of their income for housing or enduring long commutes and high transportation costs.
Households in Metro Boston spend an average of 47% of household income on combined housing and transportation costs according to the Combined Housing & Transit Cost Index calculated by the Center for Neighborhood Technology. In Boston, where the median household income is $52,400, residents spend an average of 56% of their household income on housing and transportation. However, this is driven primarily by high housing cost burden (41%) as opposed to transit cost burden (15%).
The ideal is to create a range of housing affordability within each of Boston’s neighborhoods to provide for a healthy mix of residents – including seniors, singles, young families, and people of many backgrounds and all incomes.
Boston has consistently retained a subsidized housing inventory that is about 20% of total housing stock, allowing Boston to remain a city that is welcoming and supportive of households of all income levels. However, only 35 cities and towns statewide have a subsidized housing inventory above 10%, 130 communities have between 5% and 10% subsidized and 186 communities have less than 5% affordable housing. Under Chapter 40B, communities with less than 10% affordable housing a housing developer can circumvent local zoning laws and build high-density housing as long as 25% of the units are designated as affordable.
Historically, some groups have suffered discrimination in access to home mortgages, particularly African Americans and Latinos. This has been well-documented nationally. Locally, discrimination in lending has been documented by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Efforts over the last 20 years to end this discrimination has created a network of banks dedicated to providing mortgage funds in traditionally under-served neighborhoods, but fraud and targeting within the sub-prime mortgage market may deprive many homeowners of their wealth.
Home loan denial rates have declined across all race/ethnicities since peaking in 2008 and disparities in denial rates, while persistent, have narrowed. As of 2010, according to New England-wide data from the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, the loan denial rates declined from 40% in 2008 to 26% in 2010 among African Americans, from 38% to 23.5% for Latinos, from 20.5% to 15% among whites and 18% to 14% among Asian applicants.
However, much of this decline in denial rates is the increase in approve refinance loans. Denial rates for home purchase have remained steady or increased. Additionally, the share of applicants of color has fallen since 2006. In 2010 white applicants were 91% of all home mortgage applications up from 85% in 2006.
State and federal funding for housing are essential for the production of affordable housing, reduction of homelessness and support of smart growth development that help to support stability and affordability within communities.
The Massachusetts Legislature allocated more than $364 million to support housing programs, subsidies an development, down 8.5% from the $398 million allocated in FY12. Despite the one-year decline, funding for housing is up by 24% from FY09 when adjusted for inflation.
Continuing support for a "Housing First" approach to homelessness reduction, which began in FY07, the legislature further reduced funding for Emergency Assistance housing and Hotels/Motels by more than $57 million in FY13 in favor of increased funding for the HomeBase, up $17 million, Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, up $6 million, and Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, up $8.5 million.
Over the last decade, funding for the Massachusetts prison and parole system has grown from about $881 million in FY01 to over $1.2 billlion in FY12 with teh peak funding at more than $1.3 billion in 2008.
The funding that Massachusetts’ and Metro Boston’s research institutions and universities attracts reflects the region's international reputation as fertile ground for innovation. Local research and development activities support breakthrough thinking, the development of new technologies, and the emergence of dynamic economic sectors. The combination of funding for research and development (R&D) and local access to venture capital (VC) supports entrepreneurs' conversion of ideas and pilot projects into economic activity and prosperity.
R&D: Massachusetts ranked 6th in total funding for Research & Development with nearly $2.5 million and 3rd in per capita R&D funding with $373 per capita as of FY09, the most recent year for which data are available. More than half of the funding, $1.8 million, came from the federal government ranking 3rd in total federal funds. Massachusetts ranked 6th in total funding from industry but only 37th in R&D funding provided by the state.
Venture Capital: As of Q1 2012, the New England Region had the second largest VC investment value in the nation, at $678 million and nearly 12% of the nation’s total. In 2011, Massachusetts per capita VC as $455, the highest of all leading technology states, despite falling from $491 per capita in 2006 according to the Mass Tech Collaborative.
Transportation infrastructure—roads, bridges, public transit, airports and seaports—is the backbone of economic connectivity and dynamism for Greater Boston and Massachusetts. A fiscally sound multi-modal system is essential to ensure a state of good repair and to make future improvements that allow residents, goods and services to remain highly mobile.
Federal Funding: MassDOT received $648 million in federal funding in FY12 with $350 million going to stat e bridge, road and highway projects and $139 million allocated for regional Metropolitan Planning organizations. In FY12 the Boston MPO received $64 million. Massachusetts received $292 million in federal funding for transit, with $244 million going to the MBTA.
State Funding: Massachusetts General Appropriations Act allocated $1.14 billion in total transportation funding in FY12, a 23% inflation-adjusted decline since FY01 and a 12% decline since the last funding peak of $1.23 billion in FY10. According to the Transportation Finance Commission report, Massachusetts faces a $15 to $19 billion transportation deficit over the next 20 years.
MassDOT: FY12 revenues from the Commonwealth Transportation Trust Fund and the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund were about $2 billion combined, of which about half went to debt service payments.
Commonwealth Transportation Trust Fund was nearly $1.5 billion in FY12, funded with $660 million in gas tax revenues, $500 million in Registry fees, $302 million from the sales tax and $3 million in additional revenues. In FY12 the CTTF provided $160 million to the MBTA and $15 million to Regional Transit Authorities.
Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund was $680 million in FY12, including $320 million from the CTTF, $350 million in Mass Turnpike and Tobin Bridge revenues and $10 million in other revenue. The MTTF provided $360 million to the Mass Turnpike and Tobin Bridge as well as $151 for the MassDOT Operating Budget.
Unfunded Capital Projects: MassDOT has about $5.3 billion worth of capital project needs for paving, system maintenance, bridges and pedestrian infrastructure of which about $3.1 billion—57%--remains unfunded.
MBTA: As of FY13, the T faces a $161 million budget deficit, driven largely by debt-service payments. MBTA revenues—which are largely supported by dedicated state sales tax, $777 million in FY12—have increased from $1.44 billion inFY09 to $1.65 billion in FY12 because of an increase in contract assistance. However, revenues have not kept up with increasing expenses, driven by large debt payments. As of FY12, MBTA expenses were $1.65 billion of which more than $362 million were debt service payments. Since FY01, debt payments have been between one-quarter and one-third of total expenses. MBTA total debt service now stands at $8.5 billion while the system also faces a $4.5 billion backlog in deferred maintenance and other projects.
Introducing our new Blog, Shaping the Future, where we hope to engage in dialogue about where we hope to be and see ourselves, our neighborhoods, city and region in the year 2030