April 2012 Update: Boston Indicators Report

May
15

Research sits at the heart of the Youth Violence Systems Project because we believe that it's one of the best ways to capture the community's knowledge about the things that matter most to it. That's why we've assembled six Neighborhood Briefing Documents, which are available online. It's also why we are excited to call your attention to the 2012 Boston Indicators Report: City of Ideas, a holistic picture of Boston's economic health. We hope that you'll take a look at the report itself (it's well designed and easy to navigate!) but this Update summarizes the findings that are most related to the city's youth.

The 2012 Boston Indicators Report: Inequality, Jobs and Education

  

The Boston Foundation began publishing Indicators Reports in 2000, and each document puts together data and insights from hundreds of sources ranging from the National Census to local community expertise. Their most recent report, City of Ideas: Reinventing Boston's Innovation Economy, was just released in mid-March.

  

See Page 33 of the Report. 

The report reveals several troubling trends. The Recession most severely affected low-income families, causing income equality to grow sharply. These statistics might simply confirm what your instincts already told you, but the wealthiest 20% earn 50% of the city's total income, whereas the bottom 20% are making only 2% on minimum wage jobs.

  

One of the most urgent themes covered by the report is that economic inequality and unemployment hits children and youth particularly hard, often with the greatest gaps falling along ethnic lines:

  • Of the 109,000 children under the age of 18, 28% are living below the federal poverty line.
  • African American men between the ages of 16-24 are 4 times less likely to be employed than similarly-aged white men.  

Education should be at the center of long-term strategies for correcting income and employment inequalities, and this means paying special attention to the youth currently in the school system. There is good and bad news for youth:  

  • The Report celebrates Massachusetts' Achievement Gap Act, the Race to the Top federal education grant, and increased collaboration aimed at strengthening Boston's public schools.  
  • However, the State has reduced education funding in an effort to balance its budget, in large part to offset rising health care costs.    
  • Furthermore, the highest level of education among ethnic minorities
    See Page 31 of the Report. 

    continues to lag behind their white counterparts, correlating with the high unemployment rates mentioned above: almost 40% of Latino and 25% of African American adults lack high school diplomas, and less than 25% have a college bachelor's degree.

The Boston Indicators Report warns that income inequality will continue to grow if new jobs are not created and if the educational system is unable to prepare youth to meet new job requirements. We might add that the same can be said about youth violence: in order establish a lasting peace in Boston's neighborhoods, we need to find collaborative ways to reverse the trend of increasing income inequality, create new jobs for youth, and make our schools more effective.  

 

Besides calling for an elimination of the gaps in educational completion, the Report also advocates for increased Adult Basic Education, English as a Second or Other Language programs, CORI reform, tailored community college courses, and more support for people pursuing a BA degree.

 

Youth violence is a systemic problem, meaning that it is related to countless other economic and social factors. The Boston Indicator Report shows that many of these factors are interrelated, and calls attention to a few key leverage points, such as education and job creation for youth. Furthermore, we share the Boston Foundation's hope that the city will continue its tradition of innovation and collaboration in its ongoing pursuit of peace. 

 

 

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