Segregation in Boston Metropolitan Area is Intense Despite Increase in Home Purchases by Minorities

Contact: Adrianne Kaufmann
Phone: 617-495-8290
Date: February 08, 2000

CAMBRIDGE -- Although more African-Americans and Hispanics are buying homes in municipalities surrounding Boston, these buyers are concentrated in a small number of communities and are thus segregated from European-American homeowners, according to a new study released by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Civil Rights Project.
Segregation in the Boston Metropolitan Area at the End of the 20th Century" - a report to the Civil Rights Project by Kennedy School Lecturer Guy Stuart - finds that despite the progress that disadvantaged minorities have made in achieving homeownership outside of Boston, there is a danger that the benefits of such ownership may not accrue to them because of racial and ethnic segregation.
In particular, the report raises concerns about the emergence of highly segregated schools across the metropolitan area. In addition, income segregation provides evidence of the persistence of a patchwork of "have" and "have not" communities outside of Boston that affect the opportunities available to lower-income families of all races and ethnicities.
Specifically, the findings of the report are the following:
· In the Boston metropolitan area over 40% of African-American homebuyers, over 60% of Hispanic homebuyers and 90% of European-American homebuyers bought homes in cities and towns outside of Boston in the period 1993 to 1998;
· Almost half of the purchases made by African-American and Hispanic homebuyers outside of Boston were concentrated in seven (7) communities out of a total of 126 communities;
· To achieve racial and ethnic integration, more than 50% of minority homebuyers would have had to bought a home in a different city or town;
· To achieve income integration, almost 50% of low-income buyers would have had to have bought a home in a different city or town;
· In the city of Boston, the market share of buyers earning more than the metropolitan area median income has increased from 40% to 50%.
But the news is not all bad. Exclusive, high-income, European-American communities have not excluded all minority and low-income homebuyers. The presence of these homebuyers throughout the metropolitan area is a fact of life. The state, local governments and the real estate industry can provide the leadership necessary to ensure that pernicious patterns of segregation do not become entrenched in the first decade of this new century.
Gary Orfield, Professor of Education and Social Policy, and co-director of the Civil Rights Project, commented: "These findings are ominous in a period when many state and local leaders assume that racial problems have been solved and civil rights policies are no longer needed. As Boston ends school desegregation, the University of Massachusetts ends affirmative action admissions policies, and jobs move further away from minority communities, the consequences of residential segregation escalate."
The report is based on Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data and census data. The HMDA data provide information about the race, ethnicity, income, and census tract location of nearly all home purchases involving a mortgage loan across the nation. The report covers the Boston Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA). The data are drawn from the years 1993 through 1998.
The full report is available on the web at You can contact Guy Stuart at 617-496-0100 or Gary Orfield at 495-9140 or email to obtain an e-mail copy.


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