Our State of Equity Report shows major disparities in health and economic opportunities – and persistent segregation – impede progress towards equity in Metro Boston.
BOSTON — A new report released on February 28 by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) shows that Greater Boston continues to struggle with significant disparities in access to housing, education, jobs, income, and health across the region.
The report, a five-year update of the “State of Equity in Metro Boston,” which was first issued in 2011, shows that there is much work still to be done in leveling the playing field for all residents of the region.
“MAPC’s 2011 State of Equity report laid bare the disparities facing Metro Boston, especially for low-income households and people of color. These disparities begin even before birth, and continue all the way to a person’s senior years,” said Marc Draisen, Executive Director of the agency. “Our update found that many of these inequities have either remained the same or worsened, despite the improving economy.”
Draisen noted, “We have seen progress in a few areas, such as low birthweights and educational outcomes, and we can connect some of these improvements to specific policy changes and funded programs. At the same time, racial and income segregation, income polarization, and health challenges are serious problems that demand serious solutions if we’re going to see real change.”
Luc Schuster, Director of the Boston Indicators Project at The Boston Foundation, also commented on the findings.
“Among the most important things we do together through our government is work to create healthy communities where opportunity is available to all. Despite a strong economy in Greater Boston, wages for most workers have flat-lined, many of our kids lack access to good schools, and housing costs continue rising,” said Schuster. “MAPC’s State of Equity project highlights many ways where our region is already a national leader in creating broadly-shared prosperity, while highlighting the need to address persistent challenges. This report makes me optimistic that we can build on past successes to address these challenges.”
Among the report’s key findings:
- Growing Latino segregation poses challenges to an integrated region. While Black and White residents of the region are less segregated than they were in 1990, there has been increasing segregation between Whites and Latinos, the region’s fastest growing demographic group.
- Middle-income earnings don’t guarantee a middle income neighborhood. White households live in substantially more affluent neighborhoods than do Black, Latino, and Asian households with the same annual income. This is true across all income levels, and the disparity has been increasing over time.
- Disparities in low birth weight are shrinking. Five years ago MAPC found that a college-educated Black mother was more likely to have a low birth weight baby than a White mother without a high school diploma. That is no longer the case, though significant disparities remain.
- Students of all backgrounds are testing better, graduating more, more likely to attend college. MCAS scores are up, almost across the board, and disparities are decreasing. Out-of-school suspensions are also becoming less common, though the rates are still higher in schools where children of color constitute more than half the student body.
- Youth asthma is getting worse, and disparities are growing. Black and Latino youth saw significant increases in hospitalization rates – three to four times higher than rates among White youth.
- Income polarization is increasing. The average income for the wealthiest 20% of households is 18 times higher than the average for the 20% with the lowest income. This disparity has increased two points over the last ten years. Meanwhile, wage polarization has led to an absolute decline in the number of middle-income working households since 1990.
- Disparities in labor force participation rates and unemployment persist. Even as the region approaches “full employment,” and possible labor shortages, many potential workers are sidelined. Labor force participation rates are actually declining for workers without a college degree, and people with disabilities have the highest unemployment rate of any group analyzed.
- Older adults are living longer, but they are also working longer, and face a higher housing cost burden. Premature mortality (death before age 75) has declined among Whites and Blacks, though not among Asians, Latinos and Native-Americans. Across all races and ethnicities, post-recession labor trends show adults over 65 working more through their retirement years. Older adults are disproportionately burdened by housing costs, suggesting a crisis is on the horizon as Baby Boomers hit retirement age.
- Public policy can make a difference. In many cases, reduced disparity followed specific policy changes such as state laws regarding school disciplinary policies, lead paint regulation, or housing policy.