• 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?
Research, Development and Venture Capital Funding
  • Venture Capital Deals per Million by State
  • Venture Capital Dollars Per Capita by State
  • Massachusetts Share of Venture Capital Deals and Dollars

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.

Innovative Capacity Measured by Patents per Capita
  • Patents per Capita

Metro Boston ranked fourth globally in patent filings, accounting for 7.2% of all patents filed in the US and 2.5% of all patents filed worldwide, according to 2008 statistics from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development  (OECD).  Metro Boston ranked second globally—behind only San Francisco—in biotech patents.  According to the Mass Tech Collaborative, the number of patents awarded in Massachusetts rose by 33% between 2009 and 2010 and the state ranked first among all leading technology states in patents issued at 931 per million residents, up from 622 in 2006.  The next highest state was New York with 749 patents per million.

Strength of the Innovation Economy
  • High Tech Establishments as a Percent of Total
  • High Tech Employment as a Percent of Total
  • Total High Tech Establishments
  • Employment in High Tech

Ten percent of all Massachusetts establishments were in the High Tech cluster, ranking 7th among all states and DC in 2008, according to the National Science Foundation.  Additionally, 15% of total employment was in the High Tech cluster ranking Massachusetts tied for 2nd with Washington state and New Jersey.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
STEM Doctorate Degrees Awarded
  • Doctorate Degrees per 100,000
  • Total Engineering Doctorates Awarded
  • Total Life Science Doctorates Awarded
  • Total Physical Science Doctorates Awarded
In 2011 Massachusetts universities awarded 2,500 doctorate degrees ranking behind only Washigton DC and first among all states in the rate of Doctorate Agrees awarded in with 38 per 100,000, according to the National Science Foundation.  

Nearly two-thirds of the degrees awarded were in the STEM fields with 601 degrees in Life Sciences, 478 degrees in Physical Sciences and 454 Engineering doctorate degrees awarded.  Massachusetts ranked in the top five of all states in the number of science and engineering degrees awarded.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
In-Home Access to Computers and the Internet
  • Percent of Households with Broadband Subscriptions

While virtually the entire city of Boston and Greater Boston region have access to high speed internet access and broadband, a large portion of central and western Massachusetts still do not have high speed access.  The Massachusetts Broadband Institute was established to increase broadband accessibility.  

Boston Public Library Computer & Internet Usage
  • Boston Public Library Computer Availability

Use of the Boston Public Library as a source of wireless internet and computer access continued to increase in FY11.  More than 230,000 wifi session were logged--more than double the rate in FY08--and public computers were used nearly 750,000 times, up 38% from FY07.

Access to BPL computers is evenly distributed across the 25 neighborhood branches, all of which have at least 20 computers.  Branches with the greatest number of public computers are Mattapan with 47, Grove Hall with 45 and Dudley with 45.

Access to Technology in the Community
  • Nonprofit Technology Centers
  • Intel Computer Clubhouse Locations

There are more than 25 community technology centers in the Timothy Smith Network located throughout Roxbury and parts of the South End and Mission Hill that provide access to computers as well as educational and training programs in computers and technology.

And there are 5 locations through the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network operating in Boston as a part of a world-wide network to provide access to technology and skills development for young people in underserved communities.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Use of Technology for Teaching and Learning in Boston Public Schools
  • Students per Computer

The number of students per available computer in BPS has fallen from 8 students per computer in 2004 to 3 students per computer in 2010 and 100% of BPS classrooms report having access to broadband internet.

High School MCAS STEM Proficiency
  • Tenth Grade Science Proficiency, All Students

As of 2011, 39% of Boston's 10th graders were proficient in the MCAS Science, Technology and Engineering Exam compared to 67% of students statewide.  Additionally, there was great variation in proficiency rates across Boston's high schools, ranging from 7% proficient at the Burke high school to 98% proficient at Boston Latin exam school.

Indicators Measures How Are We Doing?
Technology for Civic Engagement
  • Civic Technology & Social Apps

The City of Boston's Department of Information Technology has been a national leader in the development of social and civic apps and technology.  The office of New Urban Mechanics, in partnership with the larger community of web and software developers, has launched a number of resources to improve the quality of life across a number of issue areas, including:

  • Citizen Connect: the award-winning app that connects citizens with City services 24/7 to report neighborhood issues such as graffiti, damaged signs and sidewalk quality issues;
  • Street Bump: a mobile app that allows residents to register the location of potholes and poor quality paving directly through their mobile phone;
  • Boston One Card: a single card that acts as school ID, library card, community center membership and transit pass to provide youth with seamless access to educational opportunities;
  • Where's My School Bus: providing real-time location of Boston Public School buses;
  • Classtalk: a tool that allows teachers to connect directly to their students through SMS text message and  email.
Access to Open Data
  • Resources for Accessing Data

Government at all levels in Boston and across Massachusetts have made enormous strides in making public data open and available to citizens and developers.

In 2012 the City of Boston launched its Open Government Portal that provides access to:

  • Boston About Results, the City's performance bench marking;
  • Boston Data Portal providing a host of raw data sets ranging from building permits to crime incidents to food establishment inspections; 
  • Boston Maps, a Geographic Information System that visualizes city data for residents.

the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has also launched the Open Data Initiative, aimed a increasing awareness and access to data available from state agencies, and the Mass Open Checkbook, which details all government spending data.

Outside of government, the Metro Boston DataCommon was also launched in 2012 as an interactive data portal and mapping tool with information about the region’s people, neighborhoods, infrastructure, and environmental resources. It is a resource for all those seeking to better understand how the region and its communities are changing, and help residents, planners, city and town officials, educators, and journalists explore options and make informed decisions.