Boston, MA– A new report by the Boston Foundation and the University of Massachusetts Boston finds that the population of the Greater Boston area is rapidly becoming more racially diverse. Almost all of our region’s population growth is due to immigration, particularly from communities of color. The report details the growth of ethnic groups including Asian Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos, and focuses on the inequalities experienced by people of color in Boston in regard to political representation, housing and educational attainment and income.
Historically, Boston and New England have been thought of as predominantly white areas. In 1990, there were zero municipalities in Massachusetts where a majority of residents were people of color. By 2017, 12 cities or towns in the state had a majority minority population. From 1990 to 2017, Massachusetts’ Latino population grew from less than 5 percent to almost 12 percent. In the same time period, the Asian American population expanded from 2.2 percent to 6.6 percent, and the black population grew from 4.6 percent to 7 percent. The map below shows how the increasing racial diversity is concentrated in the Boston area:
However, there are also areas near Boston that have experienced a decline in racial diversity, from Downtown through the South End and including parts of Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain. The report suggests this is likely due to neighborhood gentrification, as white young professionals seek affordable housing near the city, effecting a rise in housing costs and a displacement of communities of color.
The racial divide is apparent when looking at home ownership in the Boston area, which has seen dramatic increases in real estate prices in the past 20 years. Around 64 percent of white residents in Greater Boston are homeowners, compared to 46 percent among Asian Americans, 30 percent of African Americans, and 23 percent among Latinos. This disparity is partly ascribed to the self-perpetuation of home ownership, where children inherit homes and wealth from their parents. Additionally, targeted home lending programs like the GI Bill were often “less available to, and sometimes deliberately withheld from,” people of color.
Factors like education levels and opportunities are also examined as part of the racial disparities we see in Greater Boston. Another key point of the report is that people of color have not been proportionally represented in local government or in local business leadership. This is especially concerning in the Boston Public School system, where a majority of educators are white (only 8 percent of teachers are persons of color). Clearly this does not reflect the diversity of the student population.
For more insights on the changing population of Boston, and opportunities identified for creating a more equal society, check out the report in full or skim this summary by WBUR’s Simón Rios.