Developing the Vision to Transform a Child's Life

The Life of Joseph E. Corcoran

In seeking ways to improve economic opportunity for low-income children, a number of today’s economists and sociologists are focusing on the benefits of growing up in mixed-income neighborhoods. When Stanford University economist Raj Chetty presented his “Equality of Opportunity Project” at a major Centennial conference held by the Boston Foundation in 2015, he said that living in neighborhoods that are home to mixed-income families can “literally transform a child’s life.”

Joseph E. Corcoran has known that intuitively since he was a child. A man far ahead of his time, he grew up the youngest of eight children, born to Irish immigrant parents in a mixed-income neighborhood in Dorchester. He has written a memoir about his family called Wasn’t That a Time! A Corcoran Family Memoir, 1925-1950.

“We lived in a triple-decker,” he says, “and I found out later that we were almost evicted because my parents had a hard time paying the rent, but we never had an inkling we were poor. We had a great education from the nuns; we played in the streets and in a sand lot. It was a good life, a good childhood.” In fact, the benefits of growing up in a mixed-income neighborhood have inspired his life’s work.