How data is informing Imagine Boston 2030

  |   Boston Redevelopment Authority, Research

Last Wednesday, October 21, 2015 marked Back to the Future day, the date characters Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown traveled to in the 1989 hit movie Back to the Future II. Flying Deloreans, hoverboards, and Pepsi Perfect haven’t quite come true because, as it turns out, it’s pretty hard to predict the future.

But there’s a lot we know today that can inform us about what the future could look like. We were reminded of this as face-to-face engagement for Imagine Boston 2030, our first citywide planning process in 50 years, kicked off last week with an open house at the Bruce Bolling Building in Dudley Square. In short, data was on everyone’s mind. There was no shortage of interesting information about what our city looks like today that helped guide people’s conversations about the Boston of tomorrow (or 2030, in this case).

At left, people browse information on posters that displayed facts about the city based on the themes of Imagine Boston 2030. At right, a poster on arts, culture, and creativity asks participants for ideas about sharing cultural resources across Boston’s diverse neighborhoods.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority’s research division has been hard at work preparing detailed briefings and background information to help city staff and the public better understand Boston’s changing demographics and economy as we collectively begin to think about how our home should transform in the next generation.

Below are a few highlights from the team’s data gathering efforts.

Boston’s population is on the rise. In fact, it grew by 14% between 1980 and 2010, exceeding 600,000 residents for the first time since 1970.

We’re an increasingly diverse city. Between 1980 and 2013, the foreign-born population accounted for virtually all of Boston’s population growth.

Today, less than half of Boston’s population is white, compared to close to 80% in 1980. Hispanic and Asian immigration has contributed heavily to this trend.

Boston, more than most cities, has a very youthful population. About a third of our population is between the ages of 20 and 34 years old.

Future generations will likely continue to be more and more diverse thanks Boston’s vibrant immigrant communities. While only 30% of the city’s 0–19 year old population is white, 56% of the 20–34 year old population is white. Similarly, while 10% of the 0–19 population is foreign-born, 23% of the 20–34 year old population is foreign-born.

In terms of educational attainment, Boston ranks high among comparable cities, with 44% of our population possessing at least a bachelor’s degree.


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