• 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?
Case Schiller Home Price Index
  • Case-Schiller Housing Price Index

As of May 2012 Metro Boston's home prices had risen for the sixth consecutive month and were 3.3% higher than the market bottom in March of 2009.  However, prices have not fully recovered to where they were prior to the recession and remain 17% lower than the peak in September 2005.

Among the 20 Metro Regions tracked by the Case Schiller Home Price Index, Boston had the third most stable home prices losing 20% of value from peak to trough, behind Dallas where values declined by 11% and Denver where values declined by 14%.  In comparison, Las Vegas and Phoenix home values declined by 62% and 56% respectively between market peak and bottom.

However, Boston has not recovered as quickly as other Metros.  From market bottom through May 2012 home prices increased by 3.3%, the fourth lowest of the 20 regions.  By comparison, values in San Francisco and Washington DC have increased by 15% and 12% respectively from the market bottom to present.

Mortgage Debt
  • Outstanding Mortgage Debt
Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Median Home Price, Boston Neighborhoods
  • Median Home Price by Planning District

In 2011, the citywide median sales price of $362,500 was a 4% increase compared to 2010 for one-, two- and three-family homes and condominiums of $349,000. This is the second year that the citywide median sales price increased since the market peak in 2005 of $390,000.

Since 2005, median sales prices have fluctuated across Boston's neighborhoods, with the steepest declines found in neighborhoods hardest-hit by the housing and foreclosure crisis, which already had a less-established homeowner base. However, since 2010, many neighborhoods have seen increases in the median home price, most notably Roxbury with a 16% increase and Mattapan with a 9% increase.  Fenway/Kenmore saw a 9% decrease, Hyde Park saw a 4% decrease, and West Roxbury saw a 6% decrease since 2010.

Despite moderating home prices, housing is less affordable in Boston and the region.  In 2010, Boston’s median household income was $49,893, with 57% of renters and 45% of homeowners spending more than 35% of their income on housing.  Those spending more than 50% increased from 20% in 2000 to 25% in 2009.  In Massachusetts, about half of renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

Median Rent of 2 BR Unit, Boston Neighborhoods
  • Median Rent by Planning District

As Boston’s home prices have declined and foreclosures increased, rents have increased.  Fiscal Year HUD Fair Market Rents (FMRs) increased from FY2011 to FY2012 for all bedroom types by 1%. The median advertised asking rent increased by 25% from $1,600 in 2010 to $2,000 in 2011.  The change in median rents increased in all neighborhoods from 2010 to 2011 except for Hyde Park, which decreased by 4%.  South Boston saw the largest increase of 52% in median rent.  The South End and Central Boston also saw significant increases in median rent by 19% and 16%.  Also, Fiscal Year HUD Fair Market Rents (FMRs) increased by 1% from FY2011 to FY2012. According to the Department of Neighborhood Development, the number of listings in 2011 decreased by 67% because of less turnover and vacancy rates decreasing by half.

The minimum wage in Massachusetts is $8.00 per hour, and the 2011 median rent for a 2-BR apartment in Boston is $2100.   At minimum wage, a person would have to work 450 hours per month in order to afford a 2-BR apartment at median rent.

Combined Housing and Transit Cost Burden
  • Combined Housing and Transit Cost

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%).  

Housing Cost Burden
  • Percent of Renters Spending More Than 30% of Income on Housing
  • Percent of Owners Spending More Than 30% of Income on Housing

As of 2010, 36% of home owners and 48% of renters in Boston spent more than 30% of gross income on housing costs.  The housing cost burden is greatest for those with the lowest household incomes: 95% of owners and 74% of renters with incomes less than $20,000 spent more than one-third of income on housing.  By comparison, among Boston households earning more than $75,000 16% of owners and 8% of renters were cost-burdened by housing.

Cost burden varies by neighborhood with the greatest concentration of rental cost burdened households in the Fenway/Kenmore area and parts of Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester and Hyde Park where more than 70% of renters were cost burdened in 2010.  Because Boston has a substantial inventory of affordable and subsidized housing, there are low rates of cost-burdened households in areas with the lowest household incomes.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Distribution of Affordable Housing in Boston and Metro Boston
  • Subsidized Housing Units, Boston
  • Subsidized Housing Inventory, Massachusetts

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.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Access to Housing by Race & Ethnicity
  • Home Purchase Loan Denial Rates by Race Ethnicity Income
Ownership Rates
  • Home Ownership Rates by Race/Ethnicity
Housing Density
  • Population with Close Proximity to MBTA Station

Almost 80% of jobs in Boston, 51% of Boston’s public schools and 56% of all Boston residents are located within a 10-minute walk of an MBTA commuter rail or subway station or a surface trolley stop. 

An analysis of the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s development pipeline by Northeastern University’s Center for Urban and Regional Policy found that new “transit oriented” development was proposed or under construction in 15 of Boston’s 19 neighborhoods.  The 46 proposed projects located within ¼ mile of a transit or commuter rail station represent a pipeline of more than 9,000 housing units and 23 million square feet of development.

Concerned about traffic congestion, loss of open space and increases in air pollution, many cities and towns in Metro Boston are starting to promote “smart growth” and transit-oriented development.  Although the number of smart growth projects and the number of communities working to attract such development is on the rise, needed changes in zoning are still very slow.

Housing Density & Access to Transit
  • Population withing 1/2 Mile of Station
  • Households within 1/2 Mile of Station

There are more than 1 million people and 466,000 households located within 1/2 mile of an MBTA subway or Commuter Rail station and more than 886,000 people are employed at a location withing 1/2 mile of a station.  

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Change in Number of Households
  • Percent Households the Moved in Between 2000-2004, Owners
  • Percent Households the Moved in After 2005, Owners
  • Percent Households the Moved in Between 2000-2004, Renters
  • Percent Households the Moved in After 2005, Renters

Boston continues to have a highly mobile population.  As of 2010, 73% of all householders had moved into their current residence since 2000, with 41% of householders having moved into their current homes since 2008.  Among households who moved since 2008, 88% were renters, a more highly mobile population.

Neighborhoods with the largest percentage of renters who moved in after 2000 are Fenway/Kenmore (81%), Allston/Brighton (68%) and East Boston (59%).  Neighborhoods with the largest proportion of owner households that moved in after 2000 are Charlestown (28%), West Roxbury (28%), Hyde Park (27%) and South Boston (24%).

Adequate Housing Supply
  • Total Vacant Propoerties
  • Total Vacancy Rate
  • Owner Vacancy Rates
  • Rental Vacancy Rates

The most recent census data shows that the total number of vacant properties in Boston increased to 19,782 in 2010, up from 12,407 in 2000 when Boston's housing bubble was still growing.  Total vacancy rates have also in crease to nearly 8% in 2010 up from about 5% in 2000.  In 2010 46% of vacant housing units were for rent, up from 40% in 2000, and 9.6% were for sale, up from 6.2% a decade earlier.

More recent data from commercial real estate companies show the region's rental vacancy rate below 5% of total rental inventory in 2012  leading to a surge in average rents.  This is a trend that will likely continue as Boston's housing market recovers from the recession.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Adequate Housing Production
  • Total Housing Units by Number of Permits, Boston
  • Total Single-Family Housing Units by Number of Permits, Boston
  • Total Number of Multi-Family Housing Units Permits, Boston and Massachusetts
  • Total Number of Building Units Permits, Massachusetts

The 2008 recession and housing crisis has affected housing production in Greater Boston as it has elsewhere. According to the 2011 Greater Housing Report Card, for all of 2010, the five counties in the Greater Boston region including Suffolk, Norfolk, Middlesex, Essex, and Plymoth issued a grand total of just 5,823 permits for new units of housing. This represented an improvement of nearly 24% over the extraordinary low 2009 level. The decline in housing production in the region has been most severe in multi-unit buildings. Between 2005 and 2009, the number of permits for single-family homes declined by nearly 62 percent, but this was eclipsed by the 72 percent decline in two-to-four unit buildings and by 75 percent in larger buildings with five units or more.

Smart Growth Development
  • 40R Units, Massachusetts
As of 2012, 30 municipalities in Massachusetts had passed 40R smart growth zoning overlays with 11,570 units permitted.
Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Homelessness Prevention
  • Total & Homeless Children

Boston's total homeless population was 7,286 in 2010, falling for the second year after reaching a high of 7,681 in 2008.  However, this is more than 2,200 homeless Bostonians than in 1997 when the count was 5,016.  Even more worrisome is that 30% of the homeless population in 2010 were children under 18 compared to 1997 when 18% of the homeless were children.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Abandoned Properties by Boston Neighborhoods
  • Abandoned Properties, Boston
  • Distressed Buildings by Planning District

In 2010, 246 buildings were categorized as abandoned or distressed by the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development.  This represents a decrease over 2008 which found 318 of such buildings, but strikingly lower than in 1997 when more than 1,000 buildings were categorized as such.  Of these buildings in 2010, 127 (51.6%) were residential, whereas 119 (48.3%) were commercial and/or mixed-use.

Foreclosure Petitions
  • Foreclosure Deeds
  • Foreclosure Deeds by Planning District

The City of Boston recorded 525 foreclosure deeds in 2011 down from the most recent peak of 1,215 in 2008 but still well above the years 2000 through 2005 when fewer than 100 foreclosure deeds were recorded annually.

Despite the overall decline foreclosures remain highly concentrated in Dorchester, with 149 in 2011, and Roxbury, with 79.  By comparison, there were fewer than 10 foreclosure deeds in Central Boston, Charlestown, Back Bay/Beacon Hill, the South End and Fenway.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Trends in Public Funding for Housing
  • Massachusetts Funding for Housing & Community Development

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.