Nature, September 2020
When Barry Bluestone moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1971 to take a job teaching economics at Boston College, the city was “in terrible shape”, he says, with high rates of poverty and unemployment. He took a rundown apartment in the Back Bay neighbourhood for US$204 a month (roughly $1,300 in today’s money) and was burgled twice in his first week. A one-bedroom apartment in that same, now upmarket, neighbourhood, fetches double that rental, according to real-estate websites. A population that began shrinking in 1980 is growing again.
“Boston was just plain lucky,” says Bluestone, a professor emeritus of economics at Northeastern University, who has studied the impact of life sciences on the city. “It had all these universities, which until very recently were not very important economic institutions. It had all these hospitals, like Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, but healthcare was a minor part of the economy.”