Despite having experienced some improvement in recent years, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council has found that Boston’s polarization along socioeconomic lines is still significant.
Reviewing the Facts
In order to develop its report, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council analyzed data for the five years that end in 2015. The report, which serves as an update to the 2011 survey that analyzed the same type of data, found that white residents who live in Boston live in “significantly more affluent neighborhoods” when compared to minority residents. This divide is still found even when the households being compared have the same annual income.
Yet, even as the racial divide along socioeconomic lines remains a concern, Boston is becoming increasingly more diverse. In 1980, only 8 percent of the region’s population consisted of people of color. By 2010, this figure had grown to 25 percent. By 2040, it is projected that at least 40 percent of the region will consist of people of color, with Latinos being the fastest growing non-white demographic group. In fact, Latinos now comprise 9 percent of the region’s total population. Immigrants are also a major driver behind the region’s population growth, as the city would have actually lost population between 2000 and 2010 if not for immigrants.
A Segregated City
The report found that whites and African-Americans are less segregated now than they were a generation ago. On the other hand, segregation between whites and Latinos has increased. This is even more concerning when considering that whites constitute the majority of the region’s population and Latinos are the fastest-growing minority in the region.
Despite the fact that the gap is decreasing between whites and African-Americans, the gap is still quite significant. In fact, the report found that white householders, householders with a college degree and householders over 65 years of age own their homes at the highest rate. For all three of these categories, the homeownership rate what near to 70 percent. Householders who are black and Latino, on the other hand, own their homes at the lowest rate. Black householders own their homes at a rate that is 36 percent lower than their white counterparts, while Latinos own them at a rate that is 43 percent lower.
Exploring the Cause
While there is no one causes for the growing segregation issues, the council has found that much of the problem appears to be related to housing costs. Due to the high costs of housing in Boston, it is even more difficult to buy a home in certain neighborhoods. In some cases, it is not possible at all, which sometimes exposes those populations that are already vulnerable to the detrimental effects of rising rent costs.
These differences are concerning for a number of reasons. Not only does it raise moral and ethical concerns, but research also shows that residential displacement may have a negative effect on mental health. It has also been linked to problems regarding child health, access to healthcare facilities and chronic disease among those populations that are already marginalized.