Stagnant Wages and Rising Rents Squeeze the Middle Class Out of Boston

Boston, and Massachusetts overall, have been outpacing the country  on low unemployment numbers and providing housing for the poor, but a new report suggests that this growth is largely limited to the wealthy, and that upward mobility is on the decline.

A new poverty report from the Boston Foundation’s research center titled “Boston’s Booming…But for Whom?”  states that the middle class is shrinking in the city, as housing costs continue to rise and wages remain stagnant for most.

According to the report, wages for high income residents have grown by 50 percent since 1979, but the pay of most people has hardly budged since the 1970s. The report also found that one in ten Massachusetts residents were living in poverty in 2016, and that the poverty rate in Massachusetts outpaces 29 other states.

The report also points to the types of jobs that are being created in the urban core of Greater Boston and the unequal amount of wealth between families who live in different parts of the city and who belong to different racial and ethnic groups.

Though Boston is experiencing a growing population, expected to reach to 760,000 by 2030, more than 15,000 middle-income households were lost over a 14 year period.

During the same timeframe, the number of high-end households in the city increased by 30,073 households and the number low-income households grew by 43,202 in the city.

The report suggests income stagnation and increasing rents and housing costs are to blame for why many in the city spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, or are housing cost burdened.

Residents in Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury in particular are defined as “housing cost burdened,” according to residential census track data, which found the majority of Bostonians earning a median income struggle to keep up with housing costs in this economy.

According to the report, 150 out of 170 residential census tracks on median income households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, excluding slivers of East Boston, Charlestown, South Boston, Back Bay/Beacon Hill, West Roxbury, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale.

The report says while top earners in the city have experienced a tremendous amount of growth over the past half-century, the state and the city of Boston specifically have put policies in place to make growth more achievable than other parts of the country. Crediting the state’s low incarceration rates- specifically for men of color- investment in health care and a good education system, the city and state are faring well in terms of creating opportunity for all.

Suffolk County specifically has created more housing for extremely low-income families at a rate of 61 units per 100 households than similar counties that have been creating 45 units per 100 households, a trend we are seeing nationally.

With dramatically high home values on the rise and not enough middle-income occupations in the urban centers of Boston, the report suggests that the city and state invest more resources in the MBTA, job training, and education to allow for families to experience the growth that higher-income earners have been experiencing.



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