“Shape of the City: Making Boston America’s Upwardly Mobile City”: Boston Foundation releases latest Boston Indicators Report

September 18, 2015

Report release coincides with the foundation’s latest launch of a series of Opportunity Forums, with a focus on income inequality; the first forum is “The Crucial Early Childhood Years”

Boston — On Tuesday, September 22, the Boston Foundation will release “Shape of the City: Making Boston America’s Upwardly Mobile City,” the foundation’s 2015 Boston Indicators Project report that explores the issue of income inequality.

Fifteen years after the Boston Indicators Project launched, this new report returns to an issue that has been present since its first report in 2000 and was noted again in 2009, revealing two disturbing trends: The gap between the rich and the poor is growing, and the rich are getting richer, while the poor can’t keep up. In 2000, the report says, the top 20 percent of Boston’s households earned roughly 24 times more than the bottom 20 percent. But as of 2013 (the most recent complete data available to us), the top quintile earned nearly 30 times more than the bottom quintile.

As for income levels, the report says that in 2000 the top five percent of households earned nearly 44 times more than the bottom 20 percent. By 2013, top earners were taking in 54 times more than the lowest quintile.

Further, median inflation-adjusted income for the bottom 20 percent of Boston’s households rose on 14 percent (roughly $930), while the cost of buying and renting homes continues to go up.

“The Boston Foundation has always been deeply dedicated to social justice,” said Paul S. Grogan, the foundation’s President and CEO. “For the first 50 years of our existence we largely responded to incredible poverty and human need, driven by the Great Depression, two world wars, and other major conflicts. But nothing in recent years has gripped our nation more than the worsening problem of income inequality.  We feel strongly that one of our roles is to bring the community together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing our region.”

While the Boston Foundation is in the midst of a year-long celebration of its centennial this is also a major year for our Indicators Project – the halfway point in the 30-year initiative, which will end in 2030, the City of Boston’s 400th anniversary. The Boston Indicators Project has been a primary data resource for Greater Boston for 15 years. Its goals are to democratize access to high quality data and information, foster informed public discourse and monitor progress on shared civic goals.

In addition to the release of “Shape of the City: Making Boston America’s Upwardly Mobile City,” on Tuesday morning the foundation will also begin a series of three forums focused on the issue of income inequality and ways to create opportunity and mobility. The first event in this series, Tuessday, is titled “The Crucial Early Childhood Years.”

Among the revelations that will be discussed Tuesday are the fact that there are some positive trends in opportunity circumstances at birth for Boston’s mothers, though this has not translated into better birth outcomes for babies:

  • Teen birthrates have fallen by 58 percent since 2001.
  • Among Boston women who gave birth in the last year, the share with a high school diploma or less has fallen from 36 percent in 2005 to 22 percent in 2013, the percent in poverty fell from nearly 40 percent in 2005 to just about 20 percent in 2013, and 64 percent were married in 2013 compared to just 54 percent in 2010.
  • The share of babies born at low birth weight – a key indicator of maternal well-being and future opportunity – has remained unchanged between eight percent and nine percent since 2000.

Boston Foundation President & CEO Grogan will open the event Tuesday morning, and Jessica K. Martin, Director of the Boston Indicators Project, will give a data framing presentation.

The forum will include a panel discussion featuring Renée Boynton-Jarret, MD, ScD, Founding Director, Vital Village Network at Boston Medical Center and Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Cherie A. Craft, MEd, Executive Director, Smart from the Start, Jason Sachs, Director of Early Childhood, Boston Public Schools, and Thomas L. Weber, Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. The panel will be moderated by Mary Jo Meisner, Vice President for Communications, Community Relations and Public Affairs at the Boston Foundation.


The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the largest community foundations in the nation, with net assets of some $1 billion. In 2014, the Foundation and its donors made more than $112 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of nearly $112 million. In celebration of its centennial in 2015, the Boston Foundation has launched the Campaign for Boston to strengthen the Permanent Fund for Boston, Greater Boston’s only endowment fund supporting organizations focused on the most pressing needs of Greater Boston.  The Foundation is proud to be a partner in philanthropy, with nearly 1,000 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.

The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener and sponsor of special initiatives that address the region’s most serious challenges. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), an operating unit of the Foundation, designs and implements customized philanthropic strategies for families, foundations and corporations around the globe. For more information about the Boston Foundation and TPI, visit www.tbf.org or call 617-338-1700.