The New Boston Neighborhood

David Bates / February 27, 2014-10:08 pm


That old Boston neighborhood—the one dominated by folks of the same ethnic and racial background, often of a similar economic strata—may be a dying breed. That neighborhood is being replaced by a new Boston neighborhood, one that is younger and more educated, but also one where there is more diversity in income, ethnicity, race, country of origin and language spoken. So indicates Alvaro Lima, director of research at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the man who critically reviews the city’s Census data and whose job is his passion.

In comparing diversity in the 2000 and 2010 Censuses, there are, indeed, a few Boston tracts and neighborhoods that have shown some persistent homogeneity; but, for the most part, they are theexception. The BRA report, “BOSTON: Measuring Diversity in a Changing City,” produced by Lima and Mark Melnik, concludes that “Boston’s diversity can be seen citywide, with almost all neighborhoods becoming more diverse during the course of the last decade.”

In today’s Boston, minorities comprise the majority of the population, and the least diverse neighborhoods seem to be the ones that are predominantly white, such as Back Bay, Charlestown and the South End. The poster child for the new Boston neighborhood, however, might be the South End, one of the most racially diverse sections of the city and a locale where unaffordable million-dollar condos can abut public-housing complexes. But increased diversity hasn’t been localized to the South End: “Across the city diversity is spreading,” Lima told me.

According to the BRA report, the vast majority of the city has become more income diverse, and Mattapan as well as parts of Brighton and Roxbury have become significantly more racially diverse. Overall, however, according to Lima, “the biggest shifts in diversity occurred in West Roxbury, JP, and pockets of Dorchester.”

Lima said the change in the population make-up of many Boston neighborhoods came in part from newer immigrants, who more and more are choosing a suburban home over a city one, as well as from the older and more established immigrant populations moving out of one city neighborhood to find a home somewhere else. These have included the Allston-Brighton Brazilian population that helped revitalize downtown Framingham or the Latino population that as JP becomes more expensive moves to Roslindale or West Roxbury.

Lima, who left his native Brazil for the U.S. 26 years ago, told me that ethnic neighborhoods, such as the Chinatown and North End of old, are happening less and less across the country. The reason? “Because,” he said, “it is a new era.”

Now, take the Boston Demographic Quiz. These questions (and the answers at the end) come from the BRA reports “Boston By The Numbers.”

1. The percentage of Boston households that are owner occupied is
A. 34%
B. 49%
C. 55%

2. The area with the lowest owner occupancy rate is
A. Allston-Brighton
B. Fenway-Kenmore
C. Hyde Park

3. The highest homeownership rate is in
A. Jamaica Plain
B. The South End
C. West Roxbury

4. True or False: Boston has the highest concentration of “affordable” (subsidized) housing among major cities (22%), more than three times the rate of Chicago.

5. The rate of affordable housing units in the South End versus Back Bay/Beacon Hill rate is
A. 2X
B. 4X
C. 7X+

6. True or False: There are 50% more condos in Boston than there were in 2000, and condos are more likely to owner-occupied.

7. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of children under age 18,
A. Increased
B. Decreased
C. Stayed about the same

8. Percent of Boston’s children who speak another language while at home
A. 34%
B. 47%
C. 59%

9. Percent of Boston children who live in a home headed by a single parent
A. 28%
B. 41%
C. 55%

10. The Boston neighborhood with 2-4 times as many children as the other neighborhoods listed
A. Dorchester
B. Roxbury
C. East Boston
D. West Roxbury

11. Percent of Boston children living in households below the poverty line
A. 20%
B. 30%
C. 40%

12. The neighborhood in Boston with about 2-3 times as many elderly residents as the other listed neighborhoods
A. Dorchester
B. Brighton
C. East Boston
D. South Boston

13. The largest employer in Boston is
A. Brigham and Women’s Hospital
B. Massachusetts General Hospital
C. Boston University
D. Dunkin Donuts

14. The largest employer in the finance and insurance sector
A. Fidelity
B. John Hancock
C. State Street Bank and Trust Co.
D. Thomson Reuters

15. Boston has around 600,000 private-sector employees. Companies that employ at least 500 people make up this percentage of the total
A. 25%
B. 40%
C. 33%

16.True or False: Boston has the highest concentration of young adults (age 20-34) among the largest 25 cities in the U.S.

17. The neighborhood where the resident you see is most likely to be 20-34 years old?
A. South Boston
B. South End
C. Fenway
D. Allston

18. The percentage of Boston jobs that are in private, tax-exempt hospitals and universities
A. 20%
B. 25%
C. 33%

Boston has about 10% of the total households in the Commonwealth.
19. The Boston neighborhood with the most households is
A. Dorchester
B. Roxbury
C. Brighton
D. Back Bay

20. Neighborhood with highest percentage of Hispanic residents
A. East Boston
B. Dorchester
C. Roxbury
D. South End

21. Neighborhood where the resident you see is most likely Black or African-American
A. Roxbury
B. Mattapan
C. Beacon Hill
D. South End

22. Neighborhood where the resident you see is most likely Asian or Asian-American
A. Chinatown
B. Allston
C. South End
D. Roxbury

23. The neighborhood with a population over 1,000, where the resident you see is most likely over 40
A. West Roxbury
B. Beacon Hill
C. South End
D. Jamaica Plain

24. Neighborhood in Boston where resident is most likely to commute by bike
A. Jamaica Plain
B. Allston
C. Mission Hill
D. East Boston

25. Percent of Boston residents who take the T
A. 18%
B. 25%
C. 31%

26. Percent of commuters who take commuter rail
A. 1%
B. 2%
C. 3%

27. Percent of Bostonians who take bus or trolley bus
A. 13%
B. 18%
C. 23%

28. Percent who take car, truck or van
A. 46%
B. 52%
C. 58%

29. Percent who drive alone
A. 65%
B. 75%
C. 85%

30. True or False: Women in Boston have a graduate degree at nearly twice the rate of the U.S. average.

1) A. 34%
2) B. Fenway-Kenmore (8.6%)
3) C. West Roxbury (63.6%)
4) True
5) C. 7X+ (41% vs. 5.7%)
6) True: Grown from 36,315 to 58,566 and closely split between renter and owner occupancy
7) B. Decreased (-11%)
8) B. 47%
9) C. 55% (correct number is 54.6%)
10) A. Dorchester (2x Roxbury, 3x East Boston, 4x West Roxbury)
11) B. 30%
12) A. Dorchester (9,933)
13) B. Massachusetts General Hospital (14,752)
14) C. State Street Bank and Trust Co. (7,800)
15) C. 33%
16) True: 35% of the population (Austin is second with 31.8%)
17) Allston (of course)
18) A. 20%
19) A. Dorchester (41,232)
20) A. East Boston (52.9%)
21) B. Mattapan (76.8%)
22) A. Chinatown (76.8%)
23) A. West Roxbury (average age: 42)
24) C. Mission Hill (8.1%)
25) A. 18%
26) A. 1%
27) A. 13%
28) A. 46%
29) C. 85%
30) True: 19.9% to 10.1%


This post first appeared as my Boston.Curbed column on 2/26/14.