The Many Dimensions of Change in Boston, Day 3: Seaport District


The transformation of the Seaport from an industrial zone to a thriving, tech-centered neighborhood has been the result of sustained, long-term vision. As the Boston Globe described recently, there has been over $133 million in public investment in the region and countless more in private investment. New skyscrapers have sprouted up, filled with office spaces, hotel rooms and apartments; trendy restaurants and bars provide an active nightlife; and institutions like the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and Institute of Contemporary Art make for additional destinations. Because it had virtually no residents previously, the Seaport has been the rare case of a neighborhood’s birth. Using the recently released American Community Survey estimates for 2012-2016, we sought to answer the question: what is the nature of this newcomer to the Boston landscape, and how does it compare to the rest of the city?


It probably comes as little surprise that the Seaport is not like other Boston neighborhoods. It is a great place to live for professionals since it provides easy commutes. A quarter of Seaport residents walk to work, compared to 15% of people residing in other neighborhoods. Similarly, 61% of Seaport residents have a commute of less than a half-hour, while the same is true for only 48% of the rest of the city.



The types of people that benefit from this location are rather limited, however. Compared to the rest of Boston, they are younger (50% vs. 39% between the ages of 18 and 34), Whiter (82% vs. 45%), and considerably more affluent ($115,000 vs. $60,300 annual median income). Consistent with this profile, there are far fewer families than in the rest of the city (28% vs. 50% of households). It is also clear that other populations would not be able to live there, as the median rent is nearly double that of the rest of the city ($2,570/month vs. $1,350). (That said, it does not seem that the Seaport has driven up rents in the adjacent neighborhood of South Boston.) [1]


In sum, the ascent of the Seaport has created a neighborhood that many would want to live in—dynamic, with exciting amenities, and near to jobs—but is exceedingly isolated from the ethnically and socioeconomically diversity of Boston. In fact, the amenities themselves are tailored to a particular population, with many destinations for food and drink but no school, park, or library. It is, in essence, an island of young, White, affluent professionals. This raises a clear ethical question: the tax money of all Bostonians went into the development of the Seaport, but only a narrow set of them are reaping the benefits.



[1] When controlling for previous rent and other demographic characteristics that predict changes in rent between the 2007-2011 estimates and the most recent ACS release, we see no differences in the rents in South Boston from what would be expected.


To explore the data on BostonMap click here, and to download the raw data from the Data Library, click here.
Check out Many Dimensions of Change in Boston: Day 2 here and Day 1 here.

Published On: January 10, 2018 |
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