• 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 Housing?

Housing meets the basic human need for shelter, and for most households is a major expense or investment leading to economic security or insecurity. Housing is also a fundamental building block of livable, vibrant communities, and when blighted, can be a source of community destabilization. Housing affordability and quality are important drivers of individual and business location decisions. While home prices reflect supply and demand in the housing market, the social and demographic characteristics of occupants are indicative of trends in socio-economic and racial/ethnic integration. Physical patterns of development – from transit-oriented to car-dependent – reflect and drive a community’s social equity and environmental sustainability. A range of affordable, safe and attractive options assist communities in attracting and retaining a wide range of workers. 


Metropolitan Boston is home to more than 4.1 million people who comprise 1.7 million households.  In the City of Boston, roughly 617,000 people reside in about 272,000 housing units. These range from one- and two-family homes and triple-deckers to subsidized housing units and developments, multi-family condos and mid- to high-rise apartment buildings.

The housing sector includes homeowners and renters, architects, developers, builders and the building trades, real estate agents, community development corporations, banks and mortgage companies, public housing authorities, public financing agencies and community-based advocacy groups.

Statewide, housing policies and programs are coordinated by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED).  The EOHED provides funding for and sets policies relevant to affordable rental and ownership development, rental assistance management, public housing modernization and management and homelessness programs.

Other key players in the housing sector at the state level are quasi-public agencies. MassHousing was created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1966 and before 2001 was known as the Mass Housing Finance Agency (MHFA). It is an independent, self-supporting, not-for-profit public agency that, since 1970, has provided more than $13 billion in financing for homebuyers and homeowners and developers and owners of affordable rental housing, largely through the sale of bonds, and is one of the nation’s most accomplished housing finance agencies.

An important financing institution is The Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP). Established in 1985, MHP works with the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development within the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to increase Massachusetts’ supply of affordable housing by providing long-term financing for development and preservation of affordable housing, soft second mortgages, and support for  local housing initiatives. The Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) supports non-profit affordable housing development and preservation through professional expertise and seed funding for predevelopment costs.  The Life Initiative (TLI), created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1998 with support from the life insurance industry and community development groups, provides capital to projects that benefit low and moderate income households. The Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness, reinstated by the Patrick Administration in 2007, coordinates various departments through a “housing first” approach to ending homelessness, with a priority for preventing and ending homelessness among veterans and survivors of domestic violence.

Working alongside financing organizations are nonprofit organizations that bring the sector together and advocate for more effective public policies For example, Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) is a statewide non-profit umbrella organization for affordable housing and community development activities that represents all interests in the housing field, from non-profit and for-profit developers, housing providers and advocates, lenders, property managers, architects, consultants, homeowners, tenants, local planners, foundation and government officials.

Other nonprofit housing groups focus on housing for specific constituencies. The Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP) is the state’s largest regional provider of rental voucher assistance to homeless, elderly, disabled, and low- and moderate-income residents, with services in Boston and 29 surrounding communities. The Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance aligns the work of 90 community-based organizations serving homeless individuals through emergency, transitional and permanent housing programs, health services, employment and self-advocacy.

In the City of Boston, housing policies and planning are coordinated by the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), which works with non-profit and for-profit partners to develop and preserve affordable housing and support first-time homebuyers with educational courses and financial assistance. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is responsible for planning and approval of major developments. The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) houses approximately 10% of the city’s residents through senior and family public housing developments and section 8 voucher programs.

All three contributed to Leading the Way, Boston’s housing strategy for increasing the production of new housing, of which the latest iteration focuses on housing Boston’s workforce, addressing the foreclosure crisis, reversing the rise in homelessness and preserving and stabilizing Boston’s rental housing market. The efforts of DND, the BRA and the BHA are supplemented by Boston’s Emergency Shelter Commission and the Fair Housing Commission, which respectively work to coordinate the city’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness and address housing discrimination.

Boston’s accomplished 26 community development corporations such as the Massachusetts Bay CDC, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), Allston-Brighton CDC, Urban Edge, Codman Square CDC -- play a significant role in housing production and preservation in Boston’s residential neighborhoods.

Another important organization is Boston Community Capital (BCC). BCC is a community development financial institution that provides a range of debt and equity products for investments in low income communities.  Their housing initiatives include the Boston Community Loan Fund (BCLF) and the Stabilizing Urban Neighborhoods Initiative (SUN). The BCLF provides loans to nonprofit organizations, community development corporations and local developers to build affordable housing while the SUN initiative works to prevent the displacement of families and the neighborhood destabilizing effects of vacancy and abandonment triggered by foreclosures.

Private sector resources in the field include residential lending institutions from the nation’s largest banks and mortgage companies to local private investors, from independent banks, research institutions such as the Warren Group, which collects and compiles data on real estate sales and ownership throughout New England and manages a number of fee-based online tools and data products for understanding housing trends in the region, and trade associations such as the Greater Boston Association of Realtors to New England Women in Real Estate (NEWIRE) The Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC). MHIC, founded in 1990 by a consortium of banks as a nonprofit private investor and lender specializing in financing affordable housing and community development through New England, offers low-income housing tax credits (LITC), new market tax credits, neighborhood stabilization loans for foreclosed and abandoned properties and traditional lending to for-profit and non-profit developers of affordable housing.

Greater Boston is also home to academic programs and research institutes which focus on housing and community development – from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s New England Public Policy Center, Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing and Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy to MIT’s Center for Real Estate, UMass-Boston’s Center for Social Policy and Wellesley’s Karl Case, who with Robert Shiller produces Standard and Poor's respected Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.