Housing inequality in the Boston area

Boston Globe and diversitydatakids.org reveal "Boundaries to Hope: A lopsided geography of affordable housing in Metro Boston"
Published: 09.07.2016 Updated: 01.16.2020

"Politics and inertia have conspired to create this lopsided geography of affordable housing - undercutting the region's best hope for racial and economic integration," finds a major Boston Globe article, "Boundaries to Hope."  Diversitydatakids.org's analysis forms the foundation of the article and its conclusions, using the Child Opportunity Index (COI) to show the distribution of subsidized housing in metro Boston across neighborhoods with different opportunity levels.

We found that, while 20% of metro Boston's population lives in its lowest-opportunity neighborhoods, 44% of Housing Choice Voucher units and 45% of federally-subsidized project-based units are located in such neighborhoods. Further, black, Hispanic and non-elderly households receiving housing subsidies are disproportionately located in lower-opportunity neighborhoods. Across all households receiving HUD rental subsidies in metro Boston, approximately two-thirds of Hispanic and half of black households, but only a quarter of white or Asian households, are in very low-opportunity neighborhoods. In addition, about half of non-elderly but only a third of elderly HUD-subsidized households reside in very low-opportunity neighborhoods.  This disproportionate concentration of racial/ethnic minority and younger households in very low-opportunity neighborhoods is likely to limit their socioeconomic mobility.

The COI 1.0, a composite index incorporating 19 indicators of neighborhood conditions conducive to healthy child development, is a relative measure of opportunity across neighborhoods within a given metro area. The index, developed by diversitydatakids.org and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, is available in  easy-to-use maps for the 100 largest metro areas. While the Globe analysis made use of the COI 1.0 in conjunction with the location of subsidized housing, the index has many other applications, for example, showing the relationship between  housing/transportation affordability and neighborhood opportunity, as well as the unequal distribution of children by race/ethnicity across different levels of neighborhood opportunity. The metro Boston COI map is available here, and a one-page summary of major metro Boston findings is here, including:

  • Black and Hispanic children are over six times more likely than white children to live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods in Metro Boston
  •  Of the 100 largest metros, Boston has the highest concentration of Hispanic children living in the lowest-opportunity neighborhoods within the metro area (57.6%)
  • Of the 100 largest metros, Boston has the 6th highest concentration of black children living in the lowest-opportunity neighborhoods within the metro area (57.8%)