State of Equity: Indicators Overview

In 2011 MAPC released The State of Equity in Metro Boston, an inventory of cross- sectoral indicators that measured inequity in the region. Those indicators informed the creation of MAPC’s State of Equity Policy Agenda in 2014. MAPC’s 2017 update to the State of Equity indicators report was published in February, 2017 and forms the basis for the agenda put forth in this document. The following section summarizes major findings of the 2017 State of Equity indicators report. Visit the full State of Equity Report, with many more indicators and insights.

The indicators suggest that conditions which contribute to inequity are persisting or becoming more severe: discrimination, whether overt or systemic, continues to limit opportunity for residents of color and residents with disabilities; income and wealth disparity is increasing, dimming the prospects for upward mobility; and residential segregation, especially segregation by income, is becoming more severe.

  • Diverse yet Segregated
  • Growing Up (Un)Healthy
  • Narrowing Achievement Gaps
  • Disparate Prosperity
  • Owning a Home Building Wealth
  • Participating in the Labor Force
  • Staying Out of the System
  • Living Longer and Aging in Place

Metro Boston is becoming more diverse every decade. In 1970, the region’s population was 5% people of color—Asian, Black, Latino, Native American, multiracial and other non-White residents; by 2010, that figure had grown to 28%. MAPC projects that by 2040 the region will be at least 40% people of color. The region has also grown in share of foreign-born residents, and as of 2011-2015, 20% of Metro Boston residents were born outside of the U.S.

Yet even as it grows more diverse, the region remains racially and economically segregated. The Dissimilarity Index, which measures the extent to which two groups are similarly distributed across the region, has shown decreasing Black to White segregation since 1980. However, Latino to White segregation is now higher than it was in 1990, according to the Index. Economic segregation in the region has been growing more severe since 1990. According to the Neighborhood Income Segregation Index the region’s poorest households are becoming increasingly concentrated into low-income neighborhoods with little income diversity.

The map below shows the change in share of residents of color between 2000 and 2010 by municipality. Although every municipality became more racially and ethnically diverse over this time, the rate of change varied widely. A third of MAPC municipalities became more diverse faster than the region overall. On the other hand, 58 predominantly-White suburban neighborhoods added residents of color more slowly than the region overall.

In 2011, we found that racial disparities in low birth weight eclipsed differences attributable to education level, most notably for Black women. Based on 2005-2009 data, a college-educated Black woman was 40% more likely to have a low birth weight baby than a White woman without a high school diploma (8.5% among Black women with a college degree, 6.2% among White women with less than a high school degree). In 2017, with more recent data, we found that instances of low birth weight among Black women have declined slightly (from 10.4% in 2005-2009 to 9.4% in 2010-2014 among Black women without a high school degree, and from 8.5% to 7.2% among Black women with a college degree), but the significant preexisting disparity means that those gains have not substantially closed the gap between White women and Black women. The chart below illustrates these disparities.

Racial health disparities continue into childhood. In fact, in the case of childhood asthma, disparities have become more severe over time. Data from 2008-2012 show a 10% increase in overall youth asthma hospitalizations, compared to data from 2003-2007. This increase was driven by statistically significant increases in Black and Latino youth rates. Black youth in the more recent data experienced a rate of asthma hospitalization 2.7 times higher than the regional average, and climbing. While the rates for Latino youth were closer to the regional average, they increased 22% over the five year interval.

The education that a child receives continues to impact them as they move throughout life. Children with early learning opportunities often have better educational outcomes throughout primary school and are then able to attend high achieving high schools, leading to more postsecondary education opportunities.

Standardized test performance for third graders and tenth graders in Metro Boston improved across almost all demographic categories between 2009 and 2015, and the gains were largest for Black and Latino students. For the 10th Grade Math MCAS, 62 percent of Black and Latino students scored Advanced or Proficient, an increase of 9 percentage points and 7 percentage points, respectively, since 2008-2009. The gap in scores between these groups and White students dropped by 5 points and 3 points, though the gaps remain large, at 26 points. The map below shows the share of students scoring proficient or advanced on the 10th Grade MCAS Math test in the 2014-2015 school year by school district.

Black and Latino high school students also saw large increases in their four-year graduation rates. Black high school students graduated at a rate of 74% in 2013-2014, up from 68% in 2008-2009; Latino high school students graduated at 70%, up from 62%. These increases, helped to narrow the Black-to-White and Latino-to-White graduation rate gaps. Suspension rates in schools with more than 50% students of color are half of what they were in 2006-2007, though they still remain twice as high as the average for all schools in the region.

Even as income segregation is growing worse, race is a stronger predictor of where someone will live than income in Metro Boston. When we look at race and income together, we see that people of color live in less-affluent neighborhoods than white households with comparable earnings. A White household in Metro Boston earning $78,000 per year is likely to live in a neighborhood where the median household income of its neighbors is $72,000. Meanwhile, a Black household earning $78,000 is likely to live in a neighborhood where the median income is $51,000. This disparity has increased substantially since 2000.

At the same time as income segregation is growing, income polarization is increasing. The fifth of Metro Boston households earning the lowest income are making today only 3% more than they were in 2006, while the fifth of households making the most income are making 15% more. The average income for the highest-earning fifth of households ($280,600) is 18 times higher than the average income for the lowest-income fifth of households ($15,800). That disparity has increased by two points since 2006. This can be attributed in part to wage polarization and the decline of the middle class. This polarization disproportionately affects Black and Latino households, whose median household incomes are less than half those of White and Asian households. The map below shows median household income at the census tract level.

Homeownership is one of the cornerstones of building wealth in America. MAPC’s 2011 report found that people of color—even those who earn a substantial income—face continued discrimination in choosing where to live. In particular, high-income applicants (those earning more than $118,000 per year) who are Black are more than twice as likely to be denied a mortgage as high-income borrowers who are White. For Black applicants, the denial rate dropped 4.7 percentage points, and for high-income Latino applicants the denial rate dropped 3.3 percentage points. The chart below shows home purchase loan denial rates for Metro Boston applicants with incomes of $118,000 or more by race and ethnicity.

While homeownership rates overall have dropped slightly in the last ten years, the declines have been most substantial for Black and Latino householders, whose homeownership rates (32% and 25%, respectively) are less than half of homeownership rates for White householders (68%).

Metro Boston’s economy has been growing robustly since the Great Recession, and by the end of 2016 Metro Boston’s official unemployment rate was 2.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, not everyone is benefiting equally from this growth. The labor force participation rate (the share of the working-age population working or looking for a job) for people with only a high school degree is 12 percentage points lower than the rate for those with a bachelor’s degree, and trending downward. The unemployment rate for Black workers is nearly 7 percentage points higher than the rate for White workers, and for Latino workers it is nearly 5 points higher. The unemployment rate for people with a disability is more than ten percentage points higher than for people without a disability. The map below shows the unemployment rate at the census tract level.

Inequities in incarceration follow clear socioeconomic and geographic trends that carry significant implications for individuals, families, communities, and the region. For individuals, encounters with the criminal justice system can have long-term impacts on earning power and employability, as well as mental and physical health. The number of inmates in Massachusetts Department of Corrections DOC facilities statewide dropped by 12% from 2010 to 2016, and the disparities in incarceration rate for Black and Latino residents also declined, albeit slowly. Black and Latino inmates are severely over-represented in (DOC) facilities. Although the state population is 7% Black and 11% Latino, the state’s DOC inmates are 27% Black and 25% Latino. Native Americans residents, as of 2016, have the highest rate of incarceration in the state’s prison system, as shown in the chart below.

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the region will experience substantial growth in the senior population, which may grow by 75% between 2010 and 2030. Above-average premature mortality rates for White and Black residents declined between 2003-2007 and 2008-2012, while rates for Asian, Latino, and Native American residents remained statistically unchanged. Black residents continue to have the highest premature mortality rate (348 per 100,000.) Grandparents responsible for their grandchildren have a poverty rate of more than 15%, double that of grandparents not responsible for their grandchildren. Older adults are more housing cost burdened (meaning that they pay more than 30% of their income on housing) than younger adults. Nearly 60% of renter households headed by an older adult are cost burdened, and more than a third of households where the homeowner is an older adult are cost burdened. Despite a 5% drop in the total number of housing cost burdened young home owners, the renter and owner housing cost burden rates for the elderly remained unchanged between 2005-2009 and 2011-2015.

The map below shows the rate of poverty for the population 65 and older at the census tract level.


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Hover over the map to compare to the region or click on each race to change the map.

compared to the region