• 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.
Goals & Indicators:
Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Obesity Rates by State
  • Adult Obesity Rates by State

Massachusetts is losing ground in obesity.  As of 2010, 24% of adults in the state were obese, ranking as the seventh-lowest rate in the nation.  However, in 2009 Massachusetts had the third-lowest obesity rate in the US at 22%.  Though Massachusetts obesity rates remain low compared to many US states, since 1995 obesity rates have more than doubled from less than 12% of adults.  When combining the percent of adults who are overweight and obese, 60% of Massachusetts’ adults were at an unhealthy weight in 2010.

Cost of Premiums by State
  • Average Monthly Health Insurance Premiums by State
As of 2010, Massachusetts residents paid $437 in average monthly health insurance premiums--more than any other state and more than twice the amount of the national average $215.    Over the last twenty years, health spending in Massachusetts has tripled from $3,316 per capita in 1991 to $9,278 per capita in 2009.
Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Access to Healthy Foods and Exercise
  • Access to Healthy Foods
  • Food Deserts
  • Open Space per Capita and Child Population by Census Tract
  • Access to Bike Paths

Farmers Markets: as of 2011 there were 247 farmer’s markets across Massachusetts, a 6% over 2010 and the number of winter farmers markets doubled to 36.  More than one-third (98) participate in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) that allows for the use of food stamps at farmers markets, up from 53% in 2010.  Boston’s Bounty Buck Program, which doubles the dollar amount of SNAP Food Stamps up to $10 is available to the more than 80,000 Boston families using the program.  In 2010, the Boston Public Market Association was designated as the operator of a new, year-round farmers market that will open in 2014.

Food Deserts: Research conducted by the Food Trust found that in 2011 Boston’s neighborhoods with the lowest access to grocery stores were East Boston, Roxbury, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale.  Small locations in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and East Boston had low access to supermarkets, were low income and had high rates of diet-related deaths.  According to USDA standards, approximately 170,000 Massachusetts residents live within a food desert with some of the most affected areas in low-income urban communities in Boston, Worcester, Fitchburg, Lynn and Lawrence. 

Healthy Bike and Walkways: Boston ranks as the number one biking and walking city in the percent who bike (1.5%) and walk (13.9%) to work and have the lowest fatality rates for cyclists (1 per 10,000 daily cyclists) and pedestrians (0.9 per 10,000 daily).  However, large portions of Roxbury, Dorchester and South Boston have fewer designated pedestrian walkways and bike paths as compared to the rest of the city.  In 2011, Boston released the New Balance Hubway bike sharing system, which logged more than 140,000 rides among 3,700 annual members and nearly 30,000 casual riders.  Expansion is planned for Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Charlestown and Dorchester.

Access to Community Health
  • Community Health Centers

Boston is home to 25 community health centers serving neighborhoods across the city including: seven in Dorchester, three in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, two in Allston/Brighton and others in South Boston, Roslindale, East Boston and Charlestown.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Low Birthweight by Race/Ethnicity
  • Low Birthweight by Race/Ethnicity
  • Measure needed
  • Adult Obesity by Race
  • Obesity Rates
  • Percent of BPS High School Student Who are Overweight or Obese
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Hypertension Diagnosis
Life Expectancy
  • Life Expectancy
Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Maternal Health
  • Mothers Smoking
  • Women Receiving Adequate Prenatal Care

More than 75% of all mothers received adequate prenatal care in 2009, a rate that has remained relatively consistent over the last decade with little variation by race/ethnicity.

Healthy Birth
  • Low Birthweight by Race/Ethnicity
  • Preterm births: the percent of Boston babies born premature (less than 37 weeks gestation) was 9% in 2009 and has not exceeded 11% over the decade. 
  • Low birth-weight: the percent of babies born at a low birth-weight (less than 5 pounds 8 ounces) has remained between 8.5% and 9.5% from 2000 to 2009.  However, rate of low birth-weight babies born to African American mothers has been consistently higher than all others: 28% higher than Asian, 34% higher than Latino and 38% higher than white rates.
  • Infant mortality rate: Boston’s infant mortality rate was 6.5 per 1,000 live births, down from a high of 8.4 per 1,000 in 1997.  Though the rate for African Americans has consistently been the highest, the rate fell from about 15 per 1,000 in 2008 to 7.7 per 1,000 in 2009, roughly equivalent to the Latino rate but still 1.5 times higher than the white rate.
Healthy Childhood & Adolescence
  • Child Vaccinations
  • Percent Children with Elevated Lead Levels
  • Percent of Boston Teens Who Have Ever Been Diagnosed with Asthma
  • Percent of BPS High School Student Who are Overweight or Obese
Healthy Behaviors
  • Percent of BPS High School Students without Physical Education
  • Percent of BPS High School Students Without 60 Minutes of Weekly Physical Activity
  • Percent of BPS High School Students Who Consume at Least One Soda Per Day
Risky Behaviors
  • Smoking
  • Violence
  • Percent of Teens Who Have Ever Attempted Suicide
  • Youth Crime by Type, Ages 16 and Under
Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Consumption of Nutrition and Vegetables
  • Vegetable Servings per Day

In 2010, just 26% of adults in Boston reported consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.  Also 26% of those with some college reported healthy eating compared to 22% of those with a high school diploma and 16% of those with less than high school.  Twenty-two percent of those earning less than $50,000 reported healthy eating compared to 30% of those earning more than $50,000.  Latino adults reported the lowest rates of fruit and vegetable consumption at 19% compared to 24% of African Americans, 25% of Asians and 28% of white Bostonians.

Low Rates of Smoking in Boston
  • Number of Smokers over Time
Engagement in Regular Physical Activity
  • Engagement in Regular Physical Activity
  • Engagement in Regular Physical Activity by Race/Ethnicity

As of 2010, 57% of adults in Boston reported engaging in regular physical activity, defined as vigorous activity for more than 20 minute a day 3 days per week or moderate activity for more than 30 minutes a day on 5 days per week, according to the Boston Public Health Commission.  There were differences by educational attainment and income and, to a lesser degree, race and ethnicity. 

  • 61% with any college reported regular activity compared to 50% with a high school diploma and 37% with less than high school.
  • 64% earning more than $50,000 reported regular activity compared to 54% of those between $25,000 and $50,000 and 48% earning less than $25,000.
  • Only among Latino’s was the physical activity rate less than 50%
Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
  • Measure needed
  • Adult Obesity Rates & Median Household Income

Residents of Massachusetts and Boston have healthier weights than Americans overall but rates are climbing. In 2010, 23% of Massachusetts residents were obese—9% higher than in 1997 and a 2% gain since 2008. In Boston, obesity declined by 3% from 2008 to 2010, but with stark variations by income: 15% of Bostonians earning more than $50,000 were obese in 2010, down 3% from 2001, while obesity rates for those earning less than $25,000 and between $25,000-$50,000 have increased by 9% since 2001, to 27% and 25%, respectively. Among high school students in the Boston Public Schools in 2009, 18% were overweight and 15% were obese.

Asthma Diagnosis
  • Asthma Diagnosis

As of 2010, 11% of adults in Boston reported having asthma with a large gender gap: 15% of women compared to 7% of men.  Overall, African American women had the highest rates at 19% followed by 16% of Latino women and 12% of white women.  By comparison, African American, Latino and white men reported rates between 6% and 7%.

  • COPD Diagnosis
  • Percent of Adults with Diabetes

The percent of Bostonians with type II diabetes has remained between 6% and 7% between 2001 and 2010.  As of 2010, 7.8% of adults in Metro Boston had type II diabetes, up from 5.8% in 2004.  Statewide, the percent of adults with type II diabetes increased from 3.8% in 1995 to 7.4% in 2010.   Type II diabetes rates vary widely by race/ethnicity, educational attainment and income.  As of 2010:

  • 9% of African American adults and 7% of Latino adults had diabetes compared to % of white Bostonians;
  • 15% of those without a high school diploma had diabetes compared to 8% of those who finished high school and just 5% of Bostonians with any college;
  • 9% of adults earning less than $25,000 reported having diabetes compared to 7% of those between $25,000 and $50,000 and just 4% of Bostonians earning more than $50,000.
  • Hypertension by Race/Ethnicity
  • Diabetes Type II

In 2010, 23% of Bostonians reported high blood pressure including 35% without a high school diploma, 30% of high school graduates and 20% of Bostonians who attended any college.  By income, 28% of residents earning less than $50,000 reported high blood pressure compare to 18% of those earning more than $50,000.

Cardiovascular Disease
  • Heart Disease Hospitalization Rates by Boston Neighborhood
  • Cardiovascular Disease Hospitalizations by Type

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Boston and accounted for 16% of all non-childbirth related hospitalizations in 2009 (most recent data available).  Over the last decade, heart disease hospitalizations peaked at 21.9 per 1,000 in 2004 and decreased by 13% to 19.1 per 1,000 in 2009.  However, there are deep racial/ethnic disparities in heart disease hospitalizations: 32.4 per 1,000 among Latinos and 28.9 among African Americans compared to 13.8 per 1,000 among whites and 10.3 per 1,000 among Asians.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • AIDs Incidence
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorreah
  • Syphilis

Chlamydia: As of 2010, Boston’s Chlamydia rate was 717 per 100,000 with the highest rates among 15 to 19 year olds at 2,755.6 per 100,000.  The rate for women was 917.8 per 100,000, nearly twice the rate of men at 497 per 100,000, according to the Boston Public Health Commission.

Gonorrhea: the 2010 incidence rate for Boston was 131 per 100,000 with the rate among males (155.4 per 100,000) much higher than the rate for women (89.5 per 100,000).  The highest infection rate was among 15 to 19 year olds at 260.9 per 100,000.

Syphilis: According to the Boston Public Health Commission, the syphilis rate for men was ten times higher for men than women, 68.3 vs. 6.8 per 100,000.  The citywide rate was 36.3 per 100,000 and the highest rate was among 40 to 49 year olds at 93.6 per 100,000.

HIV/AIDS: Boston’s HIV incidence rate fell to the lowest point in 2009 at 25.1 per 100,000—less than half the rate in 2000 at 60.7 per 100,000.  The rate among men fell from 91.9 per 100,000 in 2000 to 41.9 per 100,000 in 2009 and for women the rate fell from 32 in 2000 to 9.6 per 100,000 in 2009.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Level of Spending on Public Health
  • Public Spending on Healthcare
  • Per Capita Health Spending
  • Funding for Public Health
  • Funding for State Employee Health Insurance

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.

Affordable Health Care