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Understanding Inequality: New Methods and their Insights: Moderated by: Jason Ewas, Director, Mayor’s Economic Mobility Lab

By Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Samuel F. and Rose B. Gingold Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, Nancy McArdle, Senior Data Consultant, Clemens Noelke, Research Director, Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University;

Growing evidence on how neighborhoods influence child wellbeing has primarily focused on neighborhood socioeconomic factors. However, other neighborhood resources, such as schools and early childhood education, proximity to health care, and the food environment, can also influence healthy child development. The Child Opportunity Index (COI), developed by and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, is a measure of children’s neighborhood environment that considers multiple neighborhood influences on children. The COI is available for all neighborhoods in the 100 largest metropolitan areas and incorporates 19 indicators organized into three domains: educational, health and environmental, and socioeconomic opportunity. A mapping application allows users to explore the geography of opportunity within a metro area, as well as overlay the location of children by race/ethnicity to examine equity in the distribution of children in relation to neighborhood opportunity. In this presentation, we will discuss the motivation for and construction of the COI and show how it can be used to analyze the distribution of the child population by race/ethnicity across levels of neighborhood opportunity in metropolitan Boston. We will also show various applications of the COI related to housing and health in the Boston area.

By Qi Ryan Wang, Northeastern University; Nolan Phillips, Rob Sampson, Mario Small, Harvard University

Neighborhood isolation is traditionally measured by using static census reports without considering the dynamics of human mobility. In this study, we measure urban mobility by leveraging high-resolution data on the everyday movement of residents in Boston. Using movement data collected from mobile devices, we develop techniques to test mobility parameters across neighborhoods of different race and income characteristics. The measures include average travel distance, the number of neighborhoods traveled to, and composition of the neighborhoods visited. The study provides empirical evidence on understanding racial segregation beyond one’s home by considering mobility interactions across neighborhoods.


By Anise Vance, Luc Schuster, Boston Indicators


Boston is an increasingly diverse city—but is it also an increasingly integrated city? In this presentation, Boston Indicators assesses racial and income segregation in Boston from 1980 onwards. Additionally, we compare segregation in Boston to other major cities. We find that, by race, Boston is a highly segregated city. By income, it is less so. However, racial segregation is falling, while income segregation is rising. In an era without de jure segregation, the uneven racial distribution of Boston’s racial groups, and the growing unevenness of its income groups, should give policymakers and local residents reason for pause: the elimination of legal barriers that enforced segregation has not yet integrated the city.

By Phillip Brenner, Russell K Schutt, Trent D. Buskirk, University of Massachusetts Boston

We describe the design and background of Beacon: The Boston Panel Survey, a probability based web survey of Boston neighborhood residents and highlight some initial findings from the first wave of data collection to be completed in the spring of 2018. Beacon: The Boston Panel Survey gives Boston area residents an opportunity to regularly voice their perspectives, observations, needs, thoughts and feedback on an array of topics that will empower residents while also generating a resource to support and inform researchers, policymakers, cultural leaders, practitioners, and community organizations throughout the region. Beacon has been designed in collaboration with the BARI project to yield indicators for Boston’s neighborhoods using comparable geographic boundaries in order to generate neighborhood-level data on economic inequality and economic mobility for comparison with neighborhood-level indicators available from BARI. With these data, we will compare the residents’ perceptions of economic inequality, mobility, and opportunity at the neighborhood level with BARI indicators of neighborhood economic and social status and change.

Moving Through Boston: Moderated by Alice Brown, Director of Water Transportation, Boston Harbor Now

By Laurel Paget-Seekins, Anna Gartsman, MBTA

The MBTA has just completed a systemwide passenger survey to collect necessary passenger demographic data for bus routes and rail stations, updating the previous data collected in 2008-2009. This data will be used for service planning, ridership analysis, and Title VI equity analyses. This session will include presentation of overall results and changes from 2008-2009 time period. In addition, the MBTA has released an interactive tool to view the collected demographic information and download the underlying data ( In collaboration with the Boston Area Research Initiative, the MBTA is holding a data challenge to see how students and researchers can creatively use the survey data to answer research questions. The winners will be announced, and their work showcased, during this session.

By Suzie Birdsell, Nelson/Nygaard

One of public transportation’s main functions is to serve the travel needs of lower-income persons and those with limited resources. Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates working with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), is conducting a comprehensive operations analysis of the MBTA bus system, which includes a Market Analysis to better understand the shifting demand for bus service within the Boston region. A key part of understanding this demand is to focus on low-income and other transit-dependent populations and their specific mobility needs. The bus system alignment has undergone little change over the last few decades, although the economic and residential makeup of Boston has shifted significantly. Considering the specific mobility needs of transit-dependent populations, this study will explore the Boston region using Census, MBTA, and Central Transportation Planning Staff data to ask questions including the following: Where were areas with high densities of transit-dependent populations historically and where are they currently? What are the major travel patterns in the Boston area? How are these flows currently served by transit and particularly bus service? Where are MBTA riders forced to make multiple transfers to reach their destinations?

By Healthy Neighborhoods Equity Fund I LP (HNEF) is a pioneering $22 million private equity real estate fund for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) projects in Massachusetts. HNEF is jointly sponsored by Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC). The fund’s approach to measuring impact was informed by a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Metropolitan Area Planning. HNEF invests in neighborhoods that are in the early to mid-stages of transformational change and supports projects that implement a community vision and demonstrate clear potential to advanced regional equity and reduce health disparities. As part of the evaluation process for the fund, CLF uses a detailed scorecard that integrates over fifty quantitative and qualitative measures related to neighborhood demographics, community conditions, health outcomes, and project. The scorecard also provides baseline data for monitoring a range of outcomes over the life of the investment. This presentation will highlight the unique collaboration between CLF, MHIC, and MAPC and describe how HNEF is using data and metrics to attract investors, address health disparities, and drive new sources of capital to mixed-income, mixed-use development projects across the region.

By Steven Gehrke, Alison Felix, Jessie Partridge Guerrero, Tim Reardon, MAPC

In the past decade, ride-hailing services (e.g., Uber, Lyft) have dramatically altered the way that residents, employees, and visitors travel. The impacts of ride-hailing services are extensive, but only beginning to be understood because of limited data transparency. Subsequently, public agencies have been unable to sufficiently describe who uses ride-hailing services, what types of travel are being conducted with these services, or how their use impacts established travel modes. Evidence is also required to assess if this new shared mobility option is exacerbating or improving existing racial and economic inequities. To address these pressing questions, data from an intercept survey of ride-hailing passengers undertaken in the Boston region over four weeks in fall 2017 were analyzed. These data were collected by ten drivers, recruited and trained by MAPC staff, who gathered 944 survey responses from ride-hailing passengers completing a tablet-based questionnaire during their trip. Study findings revealed that shared mobility services have potential to shift travel to less sustainable modes, with notable implications for lower-income travelers and neighborhoods with limited transit access. Our results can inform new policies ensuring that shared mobility technologies will complement, not disrupt, existing multimodal landscapes and not worsen existing equity gaps related to individual mobility.

Resilient Boston Moderated by: Phil Anderson, Associate Director of Research and Innovation, Global Resilience Institute, Northeastern University

By Michelle Laboy, David Fannon, Northeastern University

Housing access, quality and preparedness mean climate change disproportionately impacts the poorest populations (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007). Because socioecological resilience in the built environment is fundamentally about people and systems, not only property (Laboy and Fannon 2016), mitigation and adaptation efforts must address populations living in the existing fabric of repetitive, residential buildings that design professionals have historically neither designed nor studied. This requires a shift from performing highly-specific, detailed analysis of an exceptional high-value building for an expert audience, to identifying a broadly-applicable set of generic probabilistic trends and communicating these findings to the widest possible audience. By randomly sampling residential buildings within broad types representing the urban fabric of a city; developing a data-model based on publicly-available information (e.g. tax assessor databases, aerial and street photographs); and using a range of plausible values in each critical parameter to account for uncertainty and variation; these models can estimate performance and train a machine-learning algorithm that tailors results to user input about specific homes. Combined with a database of indicators organized by zipcode, the resulting interactive tool can build community resilience by expanding access to information, and can generate knowledge about preparedness in the built environment.

By Eliza Wallace, Alicia Rouault, Gabriela Boscio, Robbin Peach, MAPC

Climate CARE (Community Action for Resilience through Engagement) is a three-year project led by the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), an East Boston-based community development corporation structured to collaborate with and support residents and communities in their pursuit of affordable housing strategies, environmental justice, community planning, leadership development, and economic development opportunities. Climate CARE identifies and addresses vulnerabilities in East Boston caused by increased flooding over the coming decades as the sea level rises and storms become more intense. To support this effort, MAPC created an interactive web map to collect and refine data on critical infrastructure. The maps provide a common basis for climate change resilience planning among members of a working group that included over a dozen representatives of state and city agencies and nearly twenty engaged neighborhood residents. The dataset was then used to inform a public multimedia outreach campaign called “Nos Importa” or “We Care,” inviting residents and business-owners to take action ( This data-driven comprehensive approach served a diverse audience, supplemented information on traditional critical infrastructure with information from local residents, and moved data into the hands of advocates working toward a community-led planning framework for climate change preparedness.

By Data-Driven Oversight of Water Quality in Massachusetts


The Environmental Justice (EJ) movement seeks to recognize and create change around the fact that environmental pollution has historically been concentrated in low-income, often racially segregated neighborhoods. The effort to uncover how pollution differentially impacts these populations is central to the movement. The modern advent of online data publication and government transparecy should provide a transformative benefit to the information gathering practices of EJ advocates. However, environmental agencies and other reporters often disseminate this critical data only in siloed repositories and in highly technical, inconsistent formats. We are developing a new web resource, the Archive of Massachusetts ENvironmental Data (AMEND), which curates information relating to federal, state, and local environmental stewardship in Massachusetts, focused on water quality. We will show case studies in how we have applied this resource to our water quality advocacy in the Mystic River watershed and throughout Massachusetts to develop more persuasive and evidence-based policy positions, and to integrate EJ considerations more pervasively into our thinking and action. We see AMEND as a model for how individuals and non-profits can collaborate accelerate the work of a broader advocacy community, particularly by generating data resources and analyses that are freely reproducible and extensible.

By Ahmed Halawani, Peter Furth, Northeastern University

Many bus transit services are slow and unreliable, something all the more unacceptable considering the reliance that disadvantaged communities have on bus transit. A large part of that poor service quality rests with the traffic system, which can impose large and random delays on buses. More and more, cities are recognizing the need to intervene in the traffic system to give priority to transit, using actions such as bus lanes, signal priority, and traffic metering to protect buses from congestion. To support such efforts, cities need a method for measuring the costs that traffic congestion imposes on individual bus routes. We developed such a method that relies on routinely collected MBTA data, accounts for impacts to users as well as operating cost, and measures the impacts of unreliability as well as average delay. The methodology was applied to a sample of 10 Boston area bus routes. The cost due to traffic congestion was found to range from $1 to $2 per passenger, with annual costs as great as $8 M on some routes. The most costly impact of traffic congestion was found to be the extra travel time riders are forced to budget for due to service unreliability.

Education as a Tool for Mobility Moderated by: Colin Rose, Assistant Superintendent of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps, Boston Public Schools

By Joseph McLaughlin, Anika Van Eaton, Boston Private Industry Council

In April, the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) will release a college completion report on the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Class of 2011 for the Success Boston College Completion Initiative. Success Boston was launched in 2008 in response to a longitudinal study by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies and the PIC, which showed that only 35% of those Class of 2000 BPS graduates who had enrolled in college had completed a college credential. This new report tracks the college enrollment and completion experiences of BPS Class of 2011 graduates using National Student Clearinghouse data, and compares the findings to earlier graduating classes. This presentation will describe disparities in six-year college completion rates of BPS Class of 2011 graduates. We will also highlight differences in college completion rates based on when students first enter college and their enrollment behavior over the first two academic years. The main findings provide timely data to educators and policymakers on how BPS graduates fare in college. Given the economic and social benefits of attaining a degree, improving the college completion rates of BPS graduates should be part of a citywide strategy for improving economic mobility in the Boston economy.

By Dr. Donna Muncey, Boston Public Schools; Dr. Susan Therriault, American Institutes for Research; Stephanie Marek, Boston Public Schools; Alex Kistner: American Institutes for Research; Sarah Faude: Boston Public Schools;  Dionisio Garci­a Pa­riz, Ryan Williams, American Institutes for Research

Expanded learning time (ELT) is a practice that entails increasing the length of the school day for all students, with the goal of improving student outcomes. Boston Public Schools (BPS) has been implementing ELT as an improvement strategy since 2006. In 2015, the district drastically increased the number of participating schools with a plan of expanding the day by 40 minutes in 60 elementary, middle, and K–8 schools by 2018. How schools use the extra time and, importantly, the impact of the extra time on student outcomes are matters of considerable interest to the district and to the field of education. Using data from 2005 to 2015, BPS collaborated with American Institutes for Research (AIR) to study its ELT program types, with the goal of understanding the impact of ELT on student academic and behavioral outcomes. In year one of the project, leaders at 39 ELT schools were interviewed, providing information on each school’s usage of time, as well as the perceived strengths and challenges of a longer day. In year two, quantitative analysis revealed that ELT had a positive impact on Math and English Language Arts state test scores, especially for Black, Hispanic, and Economically Disadvantaged students.

By Nancy Hill, Harvard University; Colin Rose, Boston Public Schools; Dan O’Brien, Northeastern University; MariahMany districts across the nation are implementing school choice enrollment policies in an attempt to give families greater access to high quality schools. One consequence of such policies is a disconnection between schools and the neighborhood-based resources of the enrolled students. Because students do not come from schools’ surrounding communities, it cannot be assumed that the students’ needs can be estimated or met by the resources surrounding the school. To better gauge the needs of schools, we developed the Opportunity Index (OI). It is a place-based metric that captures inequities in academic achievement that arise from factors that are outside the control of schools. Based on theories of neighborhood context and achievement, the OI was developed by integrating existing administrative datasets. The OI is comprised of the most significant and consistent predictors of achievement: the academic attainment of other adults living in the neighborhood, neighborhood level SES, and public safety. Individual and neighborhood predictors varied among elementary, middle and high school levels. We discuss the policy contexts that motivate developing the OI, the methodological/statistical processes for developing and validating the OI, and the potential applications for increasing equity. Contreras, Tufts University


By Mariah Contreras, Tufts University; Nancy Hill, Harvard University; Dan O’Brien, Northeastern University

The weekday journey from home to school and back again is a routine well known to the vast majority of American youth. Although routine, such transitions may pose challenging social experiences for ethnic minority youth who may be isolated minorities in either context or who experience significant shifts in ethnic representation from one context to the next. With Boston as a context of interest, we consider the degree to which these contexts and the transition between them are manifested in the psychological perceptions of students. As such, we explore how contexts may be socially constructed, how students are represented within them, and how students’ sense of their academic environments may differ as a function of their experiences within and across neighborhood and school. By incorporating student surveys of school climate, BPS information systems at the student- and school-levels, and U.S. Census data on neighborhoods, we will review (a) the degree to which BPS students (N = 79,300) are ethnically congruent with their home neighborhoods and schools, (b) the degree to which students’ ethnic representations are congruent between home and school, and (c) the variation in students’ report of school belonging across these different experiences of ethnic representation and congruence.

Tracking Trajectories of Inequality Moderated by: Luc Schuster, Director, Boston Indicators, The Boston Foundation

By Madeleine Daepp, MIT; Erin Graves, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; Mariana C Arcaya, MIT

Extended exposure to concentrated poverty can constrain an individual’s economic mobility. We link geocoded address data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York/Equifax Consumer Credit Panel (CCP) to characterize the neighborhood poverty trajectories of 231,959 individuals who resided in Massachusetts between 2003 and 2013. We categorize each census tract in Massachusetts as low (<10% poverty rate), mid-low (10 – 20%), mid-high (20-40%) or high (≥40%) poverty neighborhood for each year from 2003 to 2013. We then estimate the portion of transitions across these poverty levels attributable to shifts in context versus to active residential moves, applying social sequence analysis to visualize sequences of the poverty levels associated with each individual’s census tract. We find that a majority (54.8%) of individuals experienced at least one change in poverty level between 2003 and 2013. On average, individuals saw small annual increases in neighborhood poverty (0.2 percentage points, p < 0.001). In contrast, residential moves were associated with a small but significantly lower neighborhood poverty exposures (-0.5 percentage points, p < 0.001). We conclude that residential mobility may be an important economic mobility strategy for residents of high-poverty neighborhoods.

By Clemens Noelke, Nick Huntington, Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Brandeis University

The Boston Equity Indicator Database includes approximately 200 socio-economic indicators for 16 Boston neighborhoods calculated from the 2010-2016 5-year American Community Survey (ACS) data. Indicators are calculated for the total population and by race/ethnicity whenever possible to enable researchers to quantify levels and recent trends in racial/ethnic inequities across Boston neighborhoods. The indicators cover many subjects, including demography, employment, poverty, earnings, income, education, wealth, family relationships, housing, and migration. The database also includes data on each indicator for reference geographies, including the City of Boston and the Boston Metro Area, calculated from 1-year and 5-year ACS data. To produce Boston neighborhood level estimates, we linked census tract-level ACS data to a tract-to-neighborhood crosswalk developed for the BEACON survey and aggregate across tracts to produce neighborhood-level estimates. The resulting estimates yield acceptable margins of error, even when broken down by race/ethnicity, and apply to geographies that are substantively more meaningful than census tracts. With this presentation, we intend to release a beta version of the Boston Equity Indicator Database. We will critically review the main steps involved in the construction of the database and demonstrate how to draw proper inferences that take account of sampling error.

By David Luberoff, Deputy Director, Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University

This presentation will introduce the Neighborhood Change Mapping Tool, a new interactive mapping platform that is being developed by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies with financial support from The Boston Foundation. The mapping tool, which includes information on 987 census tracts that make up the Boston–Cambridge–Newton, MA–NH Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), includes key metrics from the most recent 5-year American Community Survey and the 1990, 2000, and 2010 decennial censuses. The mapping tool also can show how those metrics have changed over time as well as how they changed for areas that meet certain preconditions (such as those tracts where incomes and/or houses prices were below the region’s median in 1990). The presentation will highlight the ways that users can use these features to explore, understand and illustrate many of the notable ways that the region has changed over the past several decades.

By Alex Curley, Lauti Cantar, Gretchen Weisman, The American City Coalition

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program (Section 8) is the largest subsidized housing program in the country, providing 2.2 million low-income families with mobile vouchers to help pay for housing in the private market. Established in 1974, the HCV program intended to provide families an opportunity to live in communities of their choice. However, persistent patterns of segregation among voucher recipients in high poverty and racially segregated communities suggest the program has not lived up to its promise of “choice.” Using location data on more than 8,000 voucher recipients in the Boston Metro and the – Kirwan Institute Child Opportunity Index, we find that access to high-opportunity neighborhoods is limited: 82% of current voucher holders reside in low- or very low-opportunity neighborhoods. We then use data from a recent survey of voucher recipients and new online rental listing data to explore how preferences, search strategies, market conditions, and voucher program rules (e.g. payment standards and time limits) influence housing choices and neighborhood outcomes.

Reimagining Civic Engagement Moderated by: Katharine Lusk, Executive Director, Initiative on Cities, Boston University

By Kim Lucas, Director of Civic Research, Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics; Gosia Tomaszewska, Program Manager, Boston Saves, Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, City of Boston

When we think about designing and implementing government programs, tools, or services, we often consider bringing in policy, program, and academic experts to craft a research- and evidence-based model. And yet, many programs remain un- or under-utilized, with little or no uptake by the people they are designed to reach. Boston Saves is the City of Boston’s children’s savings account (CSA) program. During our program design phase and in our first year of program implementation, we learned that Boston families are excited, enthusiastic, and empowered by the thought of their child’s future. We also learned that families thrive when presented with programs and tools where they see themselves and their interests and needs–and their neighbors’ and community members’ interests and need–reflected and represented. The simultaneous challenge of designing a universal program tailored to the hyper-local interests and needs of Boston’s various communities led us to create our Family Champions program: wherein our families tailor and drive what Boston Saves looks and feels like in their schools. This Lightning Talk will describe the joys and challenges of our initial attempt at harnessing the excitement, enthusiasm, and empowerment in our Boston Saves families to bring this program to their peers in a way that is relevant, practical, and meaningful.

By Matt Hoover, Priscilla Standridge, Dan Foy, Justin Bibb, Gallup Inc.


The interaction between crime and place is a topic that criminologists, sociologists, and policy makers have studied for nearly 100 years. Social Disorganization Theory, an early theory, has endured in relevance in this field. Braga and Clarke (2014) noted the need for improved measures of social disorganization and collective efficacy in order to monitor and understand their role in crime research. While official data provides insight into factors such as crime, topographic characteristics of the area, number of community organizations, and demographics, these measures do not capture the opinions that residents themselves have of their neighborhood and their neighbors. Using Boston’s open data hub to gather property, transportation, and public safety data, this paper folds in citizen satisfaction measures of life, neighborhood, services, civic engagement, public safety, and economic opportunity using Gallup Daily tracking data. The Gallup Daily is a nationally-representative survey on wellness, economic opportunity, and politics fielded to 1,000 Americans nightly, extending back to 2008. This paper, over time, seeks to identify changes in the built environment and citizen opinion. Utilizing both geo-visualization and regression modeling, the authors seek to provide empirical nuance to understanding social disorganization and collective efficacy.

By Katherine Levine Einstein, Maxwell Palmer, David Glick, Boston University

Scholars and policymakers have highlighted institutions that enable community participation as a potential buffer against existing political inequalities. Yet, these venues may be biasing policy discussions in favor of an unrepresentative group of individuals. To explore who participates, we compile a novel data set by coding thousands of instances of citizens speaking at Massachusetts planning and zoning board meetings concerning housing development. We match individuals to a voter file to investigate local political participation in housing and development policy. We find that individuals who are older, male, longtime residents, voters in local elections, and homeowners are significantly more likely to participate in these meetings. These individuals overwhelmingly oppose new housing construction, and cite a wide variety of reasons. These participatory inequalities have important policy implications and may be contributing to rising housing costs.

By Jaclyn Youngblood, Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, City of Boston

Boston’s City Hall is an important civic space for both visitors and employees. Yet, it is not always seen as the most inviting building in the city. Last summer, New Urban Mechanics partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Food Access and Boston Public Schools to bring a new idea to the front door of City Hall – literally. We wanted to try an experiment in civic sustenance: “Lunch on the Lawn”. For the first time, City Hall Plaza was a youth summer meals site. The initiative provided free lunch to kids 18 or under every weekday. In our inaugural summer, we served more than 1000 meals. Lunch on the Lawn helped young people’s summer paychecks go further, and it turned transactional City Hall chores into delightful moments of relaxation for families. Program regulations called for predictability and orderliness, but people wanted flexibility and choice. Our talk will share stories from the field (or, rather, the Lawn) that highlight these tensions on a human scale.

The Evolving World of Youth Employment Moderated by: Alysia Ordway, Employer Engagement Director, Boston Private Industry Council

By Alicia Rouault, Matthew Zagaja, MAPC; Deron Jackson, Patricia Boyle-McKenna, City of Boston

Research demonstrates that participation in a summer job leads to improved high school attendance and graduation rates and reduces risky and violent behavior. Each year, the City of Boston’s Summer Youth Employment Program supports 10,000 summer jobs for youth. About one third of those positions are administered by the city’s Division of Youth Employment and Engagement through a program called SuccessLink. In past years, SuccessLink has required thousands of hours of staff time to conduct direct youth outreach to applicants each summer (8,000 teens in 2016). This was done with little information about the youth’s proximity to an available job, their individual job preferences, nor their access to transit. To improve the experience of finding a summer job, and to provide the City with better information to match young people to an available position, a team of government data and technology experts from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the City of Boston partnered to design an algorithmically-driven youth employment platform. Through a user centered design process, the team developed a system that dramatically improved job placement rates, quality of placements, and acceptance rates. This successful pilot project will continue to be used in 2018.

By Alicia Modestino, Northeastern University; Trinh Nguyen, Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, City of Boston

Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEPs) have the potential to reduce economic inequality across different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups by increasing access to early employment experiences for low-income and at-risk youth. Working with the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, Northeastern University is conducting a multi-year evaluation to assess the both the short- and long-term impacts of the Boston SYEP. In the short-term, analysis of survey data shows that SYEP participants reported increases in community engagement and social skills, college aspirations, and job readiness skills. In the long-term, analysis of administrative records covering the 12-18 months after the program’s end found significantly decreased criminal activity and increased school attendance among program participants, with slight improvements in employment rates among older youth. These outcomes were significantly better than those of a randomly selected control group who had applied to the SYEP but were not selected because the program was oversubscribed. In most cases, the largest gains were observed for non-white youth, suggesting that the Boston SYEP may have the capacity to reduce inequality across demographic groups. We will also discuss the underlying collaborations that led to the project including the role of intermediary organizations and process of obtaining administrative data.

By Annie Duong-Turner, Community Investment Analyst, John Hancock

Going into its 11th year, the MLK Scholars Program is a cross-sector collaboration between John Hancock, the City of Boston, Boston University, The Boston Globe, and Partners Health Care which serves over 650 Boston youth annually. The Program also receives support from The Ad Club, Boston Cares, The Center for Teen Empowerment and EverFi. Believed to be the largest corporate summer jobs program of its kind, Scholars gain meaningful employment at a nonprofit work-site while attending leadership development workshops (titled Mayor Menino Leadership Forums), and completing online financial literacy curriculum.

Navigating the Housing Maze Moderated by: Ray Demers, Director, Design Leadership, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.

By Jessie Partridge Guerrero, Eric Youngberg, Tim Reardon, MAPC

Housing affordability is a preeminent crisis in Metro Boston. Many municipalities, nonprofits, and public agencies are working to address the issue through new production, additional subsidies, and creative land use planning. Yet it remains difficult to assess the impact of these initiatives on the marketplace, due to lack of available data. Policy makers are eager to answer these questions, and to respond to the concerns of many community members who may feel that new construction is only making the problem worse. In order to fill this data gap the Metropolitan Area Planning Council developed a program to harvest rental listing price information via non-standard sources and provide temporally and spatially granular data on the residential housing rental market. Since November of 2015, MAPC has been collecting rental listings from online sources and recently partnered with Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Quincy to make major improvements to the data collection and processing. The dataset now includes more than one million records with information about listing date, location, number of bedrooms, and price. The data product is machine-readable and can be summarized to meet the needs of local governments and community organizations, providing a unique window into the region’s rental housing market.

By Elizabeth Kazakoff, Analytics Project Manager, Department of Innovation and Technology, City of Boston; Amelia Najjar, Research and Development Analyst, Department of Neighborhood Development, City of Boston

In January 2018, Mayor Walsh filed an ordinance proposing guidelines to better track and regulate short-term rentals in the City of Boston. In Boston, the number of entire units listed on Airbnb nearly doubled between 2015 and 2016. In October 2017, there were over 4,800 Airbnb listings in Boston with 62% being entire homes/apartments. Nationwide analyses found a 10% increase in Airbnb listings yields a 0.42% increase in rents (Barron, Kung, Proserpio, 2017) and, similarly, a 0.4% increase in Boston (Merante & Mertens Horn, 2016). Our own analyses indicate 1/3rd of the entire units listed on Airbnb in Boston are listed by 1% of hosts, indicating the Airbnb platform may be used for more commercial listings than the original intention. This presentation is a partnership between the City of Boston’s Citywide Analytics Team and Department of Neighborhood Development and highlights our analysis of available Airbnb data to understand the impact of short-term rentals on the residents of Boston and inform ongoing policy discussions at the city and state level.

By Amar Mehta, Boston Public Health Commission; John Kane, Boston Housing Authority; Ann McHugh, Johnna Murphy, Margaret Reid, Felipe Ruiz, Daniel Dooley, Boston Public Health Commission

Subsidized housing programs not only provide affordable housing to low-income people but allow recipients to have more financial resources for food and other material access (e.g. utilities, transportation). However, there is limited understanding of the impact of subsidized housing on food insecurity, which may be defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate food. We pooled cross-sectional data of 9,949 adult Boston residents participating in 2010, 2013, and 2015 surveys of the Boston Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to examine whether housing status, including forms of subsidize housing such as public housing and rental assistance, was associated with measures of food insecurity after controlling for demographic factors. The odds of reporting food insecurity were significantly higher among renters living in rental assistance units in comparison with unassisted renters. In comparison with unassisted renting, living in Boston Housing Authority public housing was not associated with food insecurity. The observed associations were robust to additional adjustment for housing insecurity, behavioral risk factors, and chronic disease. These novel findings warrant further investigation of food insecurity among adults living in rental-assistance based subsidized housing.

By Lauti Cantar, Alex Curley, The American City Coalition

Low-income Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) holders face numerous challenges in finding affordable housing in the Boston Metropolitan Area, including the tight and high-cost rental housing market, limited voucher program payment standard caps, voucher program search time limits, and neighborhood information and access gaps. These factors constrain true housing “choice” for many families, and arguably, contribute to more than 8 out of 10 voucher holders in the region moving to units in “low” or “very low” opportunity neighborhoods (according to the Kirwan Child Opportunity Index). TACC has developed new online tools to help reduce some of the barriers low-income families face in using their housing voucher to access rental units in higher opportunity areas – safe neighborhoods with strong schools and greater economic opportunities. Our online search tool helps voucher holders make more informed relocation decisions with easy access to information about rental housing and neighborhood quality. Our tool has three different components: first, there is the “House Locator Tool” that allows renters to explore new areas and expand their search. Secondly, there is a “Address Locator Tool” that allows the searchers to look for social and environmental indicators for a particular address that they might be considering. Finally, there is a “Weekly Listings Alert” that allows the users, by signing up for a newsletter, to receive a tailored list of online housing listings in curated areas. This tool has been built with open source tools and information from Craigslist, which allows different additions and replication across other regions with minor changes. Also, the tool is free and open for the public at a very low cost.

Making Sense of Place and its Consequences Moderated by: Brad Barnett, Planner and Design Technologist, Sasaki

By Eric Kolaczyk, Professor, Math and Statistics Department, Boston University; Shan Shan, Xiang Zhao, Xuechun Liu, Yaqi Huang, Ying Li, MS in Statistical Practice Program, Boston University

The Boston Happiness Index (BHI) is the result of a partnership between the City of Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and Boston University’s MS in Statistical Practice program. The goal was to explore the feasibility for, and to create a prototype of, a data-driven summary of the overall sense of well-being of the city at a given point in time by integrating various relevant data sources and presenting them in a spatially-indexed, user-friendly fashion. Having researched characterizations of the concept of “happiness” from relevant literature in psychology, sociology, ecology, and the like, we chose to pursue a quantification of happiness reflecting notions of income, health and wellness, and educational attainment. The end product is a data-driven, web-based app for user-friendly consumption of key numerical metrics relating to these notions, available at three spatial resolutions: census level, neighborhood level, and city level. Written in the Shiny environment of the R statistical software environment, the BHI app represents an initial step towards an effective toolkit for the city to attempt to quantify and summarize both progress and challenges in social-economic-ecological wellbeing at different geospatial resolutions.

By Erica Walker, BUSPH, MIT’s Senseable City Lab

In 1981, the Environmental Protection Agency’s now defunded Office of Noise Abatement, estimated that approximately half of the population in the United States were exposed to sound levels high enough to be harmful to health. According to existing epidemiological studies, exposure to urban environmental noise has been shown to be associated with a wide range of stress and cardiovascular related responses. Sound exposure metrics utilized in both epidemiological studies and federal and municipal regulatory policy focuses only on a sound’s loudness as its most relevant aspect. Subjective factors such as an individual’s perception and sensitivity to sound are important domains needed to fully characterize sound exposure. Further, noise metrics currently utilized are static and do not take into account the temporal fluctuations of both sound and noise. Finally, noise data—if collected at all—is usually not made accessible to the community at large. Our organization—Noise and the City— recently released NoiseScore, a smartphone application, to address these concerns. Our talk will discuss our previous and ongoing community noise work and focus on how NoiseScore, specifically, and citizen-science, generally, can be utilized to tackle community noise issues in real-time.

By Jenna DeAngelo, Program Manager, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

The Place Database is a free online mapping tool built in partnership by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and PolicyMap. The tool allows users to access and visualize indicators across the U.S., such as home values, open space, zoning, physical infrastructure, and much more. This tool will help researchers and policy-makers gain a better understanding of all the critical elements that make up communities. The presentation of The Place Database will walk you through visualizing several datasets in Boston, including: Housing Units by Age and LIHTC; Homeowner Affordability and Vacancy; Renter to Owner Ratio; Zoning and Brownfields. We believe that access to this kind of information in an easy to understand format will help people who care about our city shape more effective policies that address issues of inequality. To learn more, read about The Place Database in Forbes.

By Dan O’Brien, Northeastern University; Nancy Hill, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Mariah Contreras, Tufts University

Neighborhood context matters, impacting resident well-being and exacerbating inequities between racial groups and socioeconomic classes. This talk extends the logic of neighborhood effects, considering whether the street block of residence can further influence individual outcomes. In 2017, Boston Public Schools and the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) used BARI’s library of neighborhood indicators to construct an Opportunity Index that quantified the impact of geographic inequities on academic achievement. We found that students from neighborhoods with higher violent crime consistently had lower academic achievement, accounting for up to 6% on MCAS tests. Crime, however, clusters on “hotspot” streets, even within high-crime neighborhoods. This talk presents a subsequent analysis that tested whether living on a hotspot street further impacted academic outcomes. Independent of individual-level characteristics, students living on streets with 2 or more violent events in a year had test scores 1-2% lower than others living in the same neighborhood; the effect was even greater for streets with 6 or more violent events in a year. This is the first study to demonstrate that the logic of neighborhood effects extends to the more localized scale of streets.

New Models of Cross-Sector Collaboration: Enhancing Data Use in Communities Moderated by: Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager, Microsoft New England

By Andrew Seeder, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative; Christopher Scranton, Jobcase

Can a storied community development organization and a Kendell Square big data tech firm collaborate to build tools to better serve local residents? To address this challenge, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and Jobcase worked together to launch “the Neighborhood Portal”, a platform front-end that recombines Jobcase data streams into a customized dashboard for Dudley Street Neighborhood residents, businesses, and community organizers. Providing employment information, job matching tools, and peer voices from the community all in one place, the experimental project aimed to empower residents to more clearly see their local employment landscape and increase access to economic opportunities. Through a novel partnership, DSNI and Jobcase each improved their understanding of how to work together more effectively and identified larger best practices around nonprofit-tech industry collaboration that may hold the potential to replicate, expand, and increase the efficiency of similar partnerships around the country.


By Pooja Chandrashekar, Alisha Ukani, Harvard University

Open data is important for transparency, and drives innovation in civic technology by allowing people to identify and solve problems that affect their communities. However, low-income and minority communities are often left out of conversations about open data and civic tech, and do not get access to advanced technical resources. This furthers the historical exclusion of these communities from roles in technology, government, and policy. The Action and Civic Tech (ACT) Scholars Program is empowering students in low-income and minority communities to use open data to address civic issues around them. The ACT Scholars Program is a weekly, semester-long class run at Excel High School in South Boston, featuring sessions led by leading data scientists who teach students how to use data from to address issues ranging from public transportation to education inequity to public safety. Our teaching sessions employ a problem-based learning (PBL) pedagogy; our instructors teach curricula structured around issues relevant to our students. Each session consists of 1) introducing students to a particular civic issue, 2) introducing students to a specific Boston city dataset, and 3) teaching students to use this dataset to address the discussed civic issue using data analysis and visualization.

By David Delmar, Resilient Coders

Every generation hears a call. And every city or region must respond to that call in a way that leverages the unique assets of that community, at that moment. As Boston’s crises of inequality, gentrification, and access to opportunity continue to boil over, all of us have a responsibility to act. But first we must understand our own circumstances and strategic position. Join a conversation with Resilient Coders Founder David Delmar around what is working currently and what is not, as Boston grapples with its widening wealth gap.

By Eric Gordon, Engagement Lab, Emerson College

In a context of increasing distrust in institutions, including government, media and news, there is need to understand how civic innovators are using media and technology to counter these trends. Based on over 40 interviews with practitioners, this research identifies “civic media practice” as media and technology used to facilitate democratic process. It focuses specifically on those practitioners using media tools to form relationships and build trust – a practice that sometimes runs counter to the apparent needs of organizations to enhance efficiency through technology. This research identifies civic media practice as a direct response to the crisis of distrust and describes the negotiation of values that takes place as media is designed and deployed in organizations. In this talk, I will introduce an approach to process evaluation that allows practitioners to measure their progress along two central axes: social infrastructure and objective. Civic media practice is always striving towards strong social infrastructure and longevity, and is comprised of four primary activities including: 1) Network Building, 2) Holding Space for Discussion, 3) Distributing Ownership, and 4) Persistent Input. The talk and the pursuant discussion will focus on the relevance of civic media practice for a range of practitioners in the Boston area, and the major obstacles faced by organizations in achieving the articulated goals.

Economic Opportunity across the City Moderated by: Trinh Nguyen, Director, Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development

By Austin Nijhuis, Zachary Nieder, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City

Over the past several decades, older industrial areas in greater Boston have experienced significant disinvestment and economic decline coinciding with the widespread decline of manufacturing in urban cores. In recent years, however, cities have recognized the importance of revitalizing older industrial areas for attracting and retaining new businesses and talent, while also combating economic inequality persistent in distressed inner city neighborhoods. Here, we present two case studies on data-driven approaches for developing inclusive economic growth strategies in two industrial areas in greater Boston: Boston’s Fairmount Corridor and Malden’s Commercial Street Corridor. For each, we conducted an industry cluster assessment to identify economic growth strategies that preserve and create inclusive and equitable economic opportunities. Industry clusters are groups of closely related industries co-located in a specific geography. Our analysis utilized a set of standardized cluster definitions defined by the U.S. Cluster Mapping Initiative, coupled with commercially available business data and employment, business and workforce data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Business Patterns, and Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics programs. Results from the analysis were used to develop place-based economic development strategies to support business and job attraction and retention and create job opportunities for inner city residents.

By Peter Furth, VVK Theja Putta, Northeastern University

Ten years after Boston initiated its Boston Bikes program, there is still no low-traffic-stress bike route from most homes to most jobs in Boston. We have classified all of Boston’s streets by the level of traffic stress they impose on cyclists. By hiding the high stress links, the low-stress bike network is revealed to be an incoherent “network,” full of disconnected islands and barriers. We find that the average home in Boston has low-stress bike access to less than 2% of the jobs in Boston and nearby Cambridge, with accessibility ranging from above 10% in some neighborhoods to nearly zero in others. Shortcomings in the Boston Bikes program that lead to this dismal performance are analyzed. Evaluation of realistic future scenarios shows that a connected low-stress bike network with high levels of accessibility from every neighborhood is feasible. Achieving this goal would create, in effect, a new transportation mode that is inexpensive, non-polluting, healthy, and accessible to youth, with large positive impacts in public health, equity, youth opportunity, and livability.

By Thomas Goff, Teresa Lynch, Tracey Harting, MassEconomics

Since the Great Recession, the Boston region has experienced robust job growth of over 15%. But where are these jobs located and where do potential jobholders live? What industry clusters are growing and who can access these jobs? This study uses Mass Economics’ Urban Data Platform and Census data to answer these questions and measure how access to opportunity has changed in the post-recession period. The academic literature, as well as our previous work, reveals that spatial mismatches between jobs and job seekers are common, though the extent of the problem varies by city and region. Access to opportunity has serious implications on a wide range of issues related to income, wealth, and quality of life. For this presentation, we map workforce characteristics against an assortment of industry clusters – including those with the highest recent job growth and higher-wage clusters that are still accessible to workers with lower educational attainment, among others – and analyze the distances between concentrations of workers and jobs, along with workers’ commuter flows. This approach allows us to use a more nuanced definition of jobs access that includes skills matching and wages, which is then applied to map opportunity for micro-geographies like census tracts and neighborhoods.

By Analiese Barnes-Classen, MaryRose Mazzola, Boston Women’s Workforce Council; Megan Costello, City of Boston

The Boston Women’s Workforce Council (BWWC), a public-private partnership between the City of Boston under Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration and more than 200 employers across Greater Boston, seeks to make Boston the premier place for working women by closing the gender pay gap. Operating as one vein of the City’s multi-pronged approach to pay equity, the BWWC works with employers to create cultural change via data analysis and best practices sharing. The BWWC operates the Boston 100% Talent Compact, in which businesses pledge to take concrete, measurable steps to eliminate the wage gap in their companies. To do this, the businesses also pledge to anonymously report employee demographic and salary data every two years, with the goal of creating a community wage gap, against which to measure future progress. The BWWC has partnered with the Software & Application Innovation Lab (SAIL) at the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science at Boston University to create and implement the data survey system that makes this analysis possible. To date, 225 companies have signed the Compact, including five Fortune 500 companies, with new signers being added regularly.

Improving Law Enforcement Through Data Moderated by: Brian Corr, Executive Director, Cambridge Peace Commission; Executive Secretary, Police Review & Advisory Board, City of Cambridge; President, National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement

By Alex Ciomek, Harvard University

Gang membership and associating with delinquent peers are well-known factors that affect whether an individual participates in crime. Using social network analysis techniques, I identify the differences between police-defined and empirically defined “gangs” and show how the different boundaries of the co-offending groups affect predictions of individuals’ offending patterns. It is well established that peers can affect an individual’s delinquent or criminal behavior. Furthermore, gang membership influences delinquency beyond the effects of associating with delinquent peers. We therefore expect gang membership and co-offending patterns to be predictive of individual offending. In practice, gang membership is typically based on law enforcement assignment. But do police-defined groupings actually improve predictions of individual offending? Or do empirically defined groupings perform as better predictors? To answer these questions, I analyze a co-offending network of Boston gang members and those related to them based on arrests and Field Interrogation and Observation contacts with the police. Given the impact of criminal justice system involvement on the life course, as well as the added interest from law enforcement that comes with being a gang member, we must understand how current policing practices capture the nature of offending at the individual level.

By Jenna Savage, PhD, Boston Police Department; Melissa Morabito, PhD, UMass Lowell

Responding to emotionally disturbed persons (EDPs)—people experiencing crises related to mental illness and substance abuse—comprises approximately 10-20% of police calls for service (White et al., 2006). In Boston, the traditional police response to EDPs often results in one of three outcomes: 1) referring the person to EMS for transport to an emergency department, which is costly; 2) requiring the EDP to move along, with no attempt to address the person’s underlying behavioral health issues; or 3) arrest of the EDP, involving the individual in the criminal justice system. In order to better serve the community and reduce the use of resources on emergency services, the Boston Police Department (BPD) has implemented a co-responder program in which a mental health clinician rides with a patrol officer to respond to calls for service involving EDPs. While co-responder programs are increasing in number throughout the country, little is known about their effectiveness. In this presentation, we will 1) describe the essential elements of the BPD’s co-responder program; 2) discuss the challenges and policy considerations of co-responder programs; and 3) present preliminary findings from an ongoing evaluation funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

By Jeff Moyer, Ph.D Candidate, UMass Boston

Cannabis legalization has a number of avenues for quantifiably measurable social change that will be the focus of research over the coming years. One unique aspect of legalization in Massachusetts has been a deliberate effort by policymakers to ensure that those communities previously disproportionately impacted by criminalization are able to access the benefits of a legalized market. This includes ensuring priority access to licenses to those businesses owned or who promise to employ those affected by cannabis criminalization. I will highlight the efforts of some regulatory bodies to ensure social equity in their licensing including that of the Cannabis Control Commission, and also discuss potential ways to measure the effectiveness of these policies. I hope to highlight the significance of this efforts, as well as get feedback from conference participants on how the effectiveness of these efforts can be measured and discuss other potential indicators of social equity in a regulated cannabis market.

By Emily Rothman, Jennifer Paruk, Sarah Preis, Boston University School of Public Health; Amy Farrell, Northeastern University

In 2015 a research team from Boston University and Northeastern University began work on a National Institute of Justice-funded evaluation of a Boston-based program called My Life My Choice (MLMC) that provides services to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), also known as domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST). One prevention-oriented service that MLMC offers a 10-session, manual-based intervention to girls who are determined to be high-risk for CSEC. In this presentation, the team will describe how they collected data from 356 teenage girls who attended MLMC prevention groups in MA, FL, NJ, and CT (but primarily in the Boston area) and followed them longitudinally for six months. They will relay preliminary comparisons of pre-intervention survey responses to post-intervention survey responses. Intervention participants’ knowledge, attitudes and behavior changed positively on many of the items assessed, but not on all of them. The implications of these results will be discussed and recommendations for next steps in this line of research will be outlined.