• 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 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. The health sector includes both health care, which encompasses the private and public infrastructure designed to diagnose and treat disease and illness, and public health resources for health promotion and disease prevention through public education campaigns, on-site programs and services and public policy as well as community-wide responses to natural disasters and epidemics.



Bostonians’ health reflects their relative access to opportunities for healthy exercise and a healthy diet, clean air and water, home and community safety as well as health care coverage and treatment. Surrounded by almost unparalleled health care resources, Bostonians nevertheless embody a wide range of health outcomes, with deep disparities reflecting household income, race/ethnicity and zip code.

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services coordinates statewide regulations and policies, including implementation of Massachusetts’ health reform legislation, which mandated almost universal health care coverage through a “Connector” linking individuals and companies seeking coverage to health insurers at community rates, with quality and fiscal oversight as well as links to the federal Medicaid and Medicare programs. 

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH)  -- part of the Commonwealth’s Health and Human Services Cabinet along with the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Youth Services  – coordinates statewide health  policy, focuses on community health and well-being and is responsible for the state’s response to public health emergencies and epidemics. 

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health offers a wide range of preventive and health-promoting programs, from the statewide Mass In Motion program designed to reduce overweight and obesity rates, to smoking cessation programs, public education campaigns, preventive health outreach and screening and emergency preparedness.

The Boston Public Health Commission is a descendant of the nation’s first public health department, whose first commissioner was none other than Paul Revere. Boston Public Health Commission promulgates city policy and offers a variety of citywide and community-based initiatives designed to promote health, prevent injury and disease and address deep disparities in health outcome by household income, race/ethnicity and neighborhood.  Its initiatives range from campaigns such as Boston Moves for Health to public education about health risks to policy interventions such as the 2008 ban on trans fats in all Boston food-serving establishments.

Massachusetts is also home to three of the nation’s top-ranked health insurers, nonprofit Blue Cross Blue of Massachusetts Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan.   

Boston’s world-renowned health care system includes three major nonprofit insurers, 22 in patient hospitals – of which 14 are teaching hospitals and three medical schools. The Harvard Medical School, Tufts Medical School, BU School of Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health and BU School of Public Health together create a global node of academic expertise, attracting talent and research funding to the city. Boston’s Longwood Medical and Academic Area alone concentrates 37,000 employees and 15,000 students. 

Boston’s community health centers and others throughout the Commonwealth are linked by Boston-based Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. Its affiliate the Boston Conference of  Health Centers serves as a forum for discussion and dialogue and mutual problem solving among Boston’s 25 community health centers. Boston’s community health centers – many cited as among the best in the nation – provide high quality primary care services, particularly in historically underserved Boston’s neighborhoods. Many offer specific cultural and linguistic competence. With their focus on outreach and a comprehensive approach that connects individual health to community well-being, these neighborhood-based institutions anchor a wide range of activities and programs.

Boston and Cambridge are also the center of a globally significant life sciences “super cluster” coordinated by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. Anchored in the region’s teaching hospitals, pharmaceutical industry, medical devices industry, biotechnology industry and private research companies, it is also the nation’s largest, according to the Milken Institute.

The Commonwealth’s public health resources are complemented by a range of nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups focused on family, community and workplace health such as the Massachusetts Public Health Association and Health Law Advocates.

In Boston, these include the Boston Housing Authority’s Resident Health Advocate program, school-based efforts through the Boston Public Schools Health and Wellness Department. Youth-serving wellness resources include in school partnerships such as Play Works, which seeks to boost physical activity in schools through activity bursts and recess, before-school programs such as Body by Brandy and after-school and summer programs such the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center, the nation’s oldest minority-owned tennis center in the nation, YMCA’s throughout the city and YWCA Boston.

Boston is also home to the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective’s and health education publications such as Our Bodies, Our Selves.

Finally, the Boston-Cambridge region is home to such renowned global health initiatives as Partners in Health  and the Global Health Collaborative.