Boom in immigration fuels state population rise; Middlesex, Suffolk counties add most
By Matt Carroll | The Boston Globe | April 08, 2013
Driven by a boom in immigration, the Boston area grew by about 55,000 residents in a recent two-year period, according to new county population estimates by the US Census Bureau.
The population growth in Cambridge’s Middlesex County and Boston’s Suffolk County together accounted for about half the state’s overall growth of about 100,000 new residents between April 2010 and July 2012, the census figures show.
The increase brought the state’s total population to 6,646,144.
Massachusetts’ 1.5 percent growth during the period was less than the nation’s 1.7 rate, but the state is doing well compared with the rest of the region.
“It’s the fastest growing state in the Northeast,” said Susan Strate, population estimates program manager at the UMass Donahue Institute, of the nine-state region, which includes New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
A large part of the Bay State’s growth was made up of immigrants, said officials who monitor the region’s demographics.
“The big story in Massachusetts in the last 10 years is the increase in the foreign-born population,” said Len Albright, an assistant professor of sociology and public policy at Northeastern University. Without immigrants, the state’s population would have fallen over the past decade, he said.
Boston’s population in 1990 was about 20 percent foreign born; now it is 27 percent, according to the census numbers.
Most of Massachusetts’ recent immigrants came from Latin America and Asia, with Brazil, China, and the Dominican Republic topping the list, according to a report released last month by the Immigrant Learning Center, a nonprofit that runs classes for immigrants and does research.
The kinds of jobs the immigrants took varied widely, as did their incomes, said the report’s authors, Professor Alan Clayton-Mathews of Northeastern University and Professor Paul Watanabe, director of the Institute of Asian American Studies at UMass Boston.
Many became cleaners and maintenance workers, but others found employment in the life sciences, computers, and math, according to the report, citing the US Census 2009 American Community Survey.
More than half the state’s medical scientists are foreign born, said Marcia Hohn, at the center. Average income for immigrants is about $40,851, compared with $46,277 for native born, the report said.
“If you are in science and technology, Boston is the place to be,” said Hohn. “There is a lot of energy and knowledge and interacting between the people in the science and technology worlds.”
“This is not your grandfather’s Greater Boston anymore,” said Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a regional planning agency, referring to the vast number of languages spoken across the region.
More immigrants means a more vibrant economy, said Strate. “Our growth is looking strong,” she said. The state attracts many immigrants because of its reputation for higher education and well-paying jobs in growing fields like biotechnology, said Strate and Hohn.
Metro areas such as Boston have gained population because they are vibrant, exciting places to live and work, said Barry Bluestone, director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern. It’s a trend seen in other thriving urban centers such as New York and San Francisco, said Draisen.
People are attracted to the Boston region because jobs are there, transportation is good, and there are plenty of cultural attractions and good restaurants, said people who follow the data.
Younger people “are more likely to move to Waltham and Somerville and not Lexington and Concord,” said Bluestone. “The younger generation has less interest in a suburban home and definitely less interest in driving an hour to work. They are more interested in living near work.”
Mark Melnik, deputy director of research for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said Boston is growing younger — more than one-third of residents are between ages 20 and 34. That’s tops among major US cities, he said, and the percent has grown steadily since 1990.
A major factor benefiting the region is the vast number of institutions of higher education, which have helped it constantly reinvent itself, said Ryan D. Enos, an assistant professor of government at Harvard University. When companies built around manufacturing and computer hardware died off through the decades, health care and other industries have sprung up to replace them.
The census numbers showed that Middlesex easily retained its title as the state’s most populous county, with an estimated population of 1,537,215. Suffolk, the fourth largest county behind Worcester and Essex, grew to 744,426.
Middlesex County also benefits from the growth of Boston, said Albright, as people move there who either cannot afford the city or who work nearby but don’t want to live in the city.
On a percentage basis, Suffolk grew the most, 3.1 percent, tied with tiny Dukes County, made up of Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, which added about 500 residents, bringing its population up to 17,041.
Only two counties lost population: Barnstable and Berkshire, which shed about 465 and 1,200 people, respectively.
One thing is not a big draw to Massachusetts: “The weather,” said Hohn. “I’ve never heard any immigrant say, I came here for the weather.”
Matt Carroll can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globemattc
By Mike Lake and Dan Spiess | Boston.com | April 1, 2013
It is time to change the discourse around talent retention in Greater Boston.
Last Thursday’s second-ever joint city council hearing, hosted by Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson and Cambridge City Councillor Leland Cheung, in partnership with the World Class Cities Partnership (WCCP), highlighted the concern of talent loss to many in the Boston area. The discourse on this topic is not new to local leaders and the same lamentations about why young talent leaves – apartments are too expensive, the T doesn’t run all night, the bar scene is boring – keep getting shared across forum discussions, newspaper editorials, and election campaigns. But these are more the complaints of the people who stay, rather than the reasons for why others leave.
Greater Boston has never had a problem attracting talent. The region’s 76 colleges and universities and almost 350,000 students virtually guarantee a steady stream of knowledge-workers-in-training. Our bigger challenge is keeping this young, educated population from leaving Massachusetts once they’ve crossed the stage and received their diplomas. Data presented from WCCP’s new Talent Magnets report show that too often we lump together all of these various reasons that push people out of the Commonwealth without regard for importance, timing, or life needs. We give each reason equal weight, which diminishes the effectiveness of our response. By breaking down talent needs into life stages, policy makers can better prioritize talent retention strategies.
First, we need to take the spotlight away from housing affordability and shine it on jobs, student integration, and lifestyle. Greater Boston loses a majority of its talent to New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, the two highest priced housing markets and cost of living ratios in the nation. Recent graduates rarely state “I chose to stay in Boston because of the housing,” rather, they choose to stay, or leave, based on the availability of a good job in their field of study. One panelist at the hearing, current Boston University student Christian Schlachte, stated quite clearly that he would stay in Boston primarily if he had a job waiting for him upon graduation. Others at the hearing echoed Mr. Schlachte’s priority: former Northeastern University student, and Pennsylvania native, Eric Ferrara credits his co-operative education program at John Hancock for integrating him into the local employment scene and keeping him in Boston for 12 years, where he is now settled and raising a family.
Of course, Mr. Ferrara’s priorities have shifted since he was a 22-year old graduate and his reasons to stay or leave the Boston area are now honed to the price of housing, the quality of public schools, and the safety of city neighborhoods for his family. But these are the needs of those who have stayed, not those who have left. When local policy makers focus strictly on these latter points – and how could they not, with the chorus of exorbitant housing costs playing on a continuous feedback loop – they miss out on the former: a quality job in a graduating student’s field that will keep them in Greater Boston in the first place. If we can’t keep young talent within the first 7 years of graduation (the time when most young talent moves), we have a smaller pool to work with later on issues related to housing and schools.
The 33 testimonies given on Thursday showcased the breadth of issues that are on the forefront of businesses, government leaders, academic, students, investors, and non-profit groups. Google’s Tarun Rathnam believes that the Boston area has plenty of great reasons, including jobs, to keep people in the area but we lack effective marketing about our assets. Ben Forman, of MassINC, and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley cautioned the audience on the region’s continuing racial and growing income inequality problems. Jon Lai reiterated his recent posting on CNN Money calling for Boston to create a “lifestyle identity” that distinguishes our unique assets and will act as a talent magnet strong enough for him and his Harvard Business School classmates to stay in Massachusetts.
The time for better communication and action is now and testimony from all sectors of the Greater Boston community shows the passion for our home and our desire to make it better. Councilor Jackson repeated throughout the hearing that this is just the beginning, the first step of a dialogue that will continue into the future. Tim Rowe of the Cambridge Innovation Center noted that a step-by-step approach may be the most effective way to help keep talent in Greater Boston. “It’s the hundreds of small things that we all can do to make the region great. When someone comes to me with an idea, even a crazy idea, I say ‘how can I help?’” Thursday’s hearing made it clear that there are many ready to join our local leaders and say “how can I help?”
For more from those in attendance and to continue the conversation online, use the Twitter hashtag #masstalent.
State’s $1b initiative said to yield economic strength
By Robert Weisman | GLOBE STAFF MARCH 26, 2013
Halfway through a decade of investment promised by Governor Deval Patrick’s 10-year, $1 billion life-sciences initiative, launched in 2008, the state has spent only about a third of the money targeted to promote the biotechnology and medical device industries in Massachusetts.
But the authors of a report set to be released Tuesday by the Boston Foundation, a philanthropic group, say the effort has helped stimulate a key sector of the state’s economy, creating more than 8,000 jobs through capital grants, tax incentives, and business loans.
They urge state government leaders to continue funding the initiative in the face of stepped-up competition from other life-sciences hubs, such as California, Maryland, and New Jersey.
Northeastern University economists Barry Bluestone and Alan Clayton-Matthews, who wrote the report, noted the Massachusetts approach has focused on building an “ecosystem” of start-ups that can work with the state’s research universities and teaching hospitals.
They said the $300 million spent by the state so far has spurred more than $1 billion in spending by private companies. Those businesses include eight of the world’s 10 largest pharmaceutical companies that have set up shop in the state — and created thousands of additional jobs — to buy what Bluestone calls “a front row seat” in the arena of cutting-edge biomedical research.
“Here is a sector that grew right through the recession,” Bluestone, the director of Northeastern’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, said in an interview.
“If we’re competing with all the other life-sciences regions, the question is, ‘Has the life-sciences initiative succeeded in getting us to the top of our game?’ And the answer is yes.”
The report comes as the Patrick administration seeks the next annual round of funding from the Legislature to bankroll the initiative. It is likely to renew debate on the effectiveness of economic development incentives in encouraging businesses to expand or move into the state.
While the data are nine months old, the report shows the state distributed $301.5 million in grants, loans, and tax breaks through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center between 2008 and June 30, 2012. At that pace, the state would have to pick up the pace of investments in coming years to hit the $1 billion target — requiring lawmakers to authorize additional annual funding. The center has spent about $359 million as of this week, according to officials.
The 8,000 jobs created, as cited in the report, are fewer than the 8,750 estimated by the center last year, a figure that included temporary construction jobs. In 2008, when the initiative was launched just before the economic slowdown, the governor suggested it could generate 250,000 jobs over 10 years — a projection that was not mentioned in the Boston Foundation report.
Susan R. Windham-Bannister, president of the Waltham-based center, said the initiative’s job-creating performance should be assessed in the context of the economy.
“Given how quickly everything changed in the recession, we all had to recalibrate our expectations,” she said. “We have grown, and grown very aggressively, despite the bad economy. That’s something we should feel very good about. And we’re not done yet.”
Critics of government incentives say it’s hard to gauge how effective they are because some jobs created in a state thanks to such incentives move elsewhere later, and others may have been located there without grants or tax breaks.
“From a national perspective, this makes no sense,” said Arthur J. Rolnick, senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “You’re just taking jobs from one state and moving them to another. It’s diverting public money from roads and bridges.”
Rolnick acknowledged that “from a local perspective, if your governor is good at stealing jobs, it may be that the economic benefit outweighs the costs. But you don’t know if these jobs are coming anyway. If I’m a business and I know I’m coming to Boston, I’ll call up your state officials and say, ‘I’m thinking about coming to Boston’ and see if I can get some incentives.”
Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist for DataCore Partners, an economic research firm in New Haven, said state officials should recognize that life-sciences jobs are portable.
The drug giant Pfizer Inc., for instance, has moved research jobs to the Boston area from Groton, Conn., while the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline PLC last week disclosed that it is moving research jobs from Cambridge to Philadelphia.
“The question is: Do these economic incentives have staying power?” Klepper-Smith said.
At the same time, he conceded, “In this economy, every job counts. When you look at biotech and pharmaceuticals, these are important jobs because of their direct and indirect economic impact.”
Bluestone has been a critic of government incentives to lure energy, video game, and film companies to Massachusetts.
But he said interviews with more than a dozen life-sciences executives and scientists convinced him that this initiative made sense for the state. While life-sciences employment has increased 12 percent nationally in the past 12 years, Massachusetts has seen a 27 percent growth in the biotechnology and medical technology sectors, he said.
“We’ve now eclipsed all other states — and that has happened in the past five years — in terms of employment growth,” Bluestone said. “This was making a bet not on an individual company but on an entire industry that has the potential for becoming a major supercluster. It was like betting on the auto industry in 1910.”
The century’s first decade has brought a historic surge of newcomers to the city, most settling downtown. They carry fresh expectations — and pose real challenges
By Casey Ross | The Boston Globe | March 3, 2013
Susan Mai’s Beacon Hill apartment is a postage stamp of a place. The kitchen isn’t much bigger than the bathroom, and entertaining friends is a bit like playing Frisbee in a phone booth.
But for all its drawbacks, Mai says she couldn’t be happier. She walks to work at a local publisher, eats out five times a week, and thinks of Boston Common as an ideal front yard.
“It hasn’t crossed my mind to ever want to leave the city,” said the 25-year-old Mai, who shares the 450-square-foot apartment with her boyfriend. “I’ve never thought of our place as too small. I really don’t need a big kitchen or a garden.”
Mai is among the thousands of young professionals whose devotion to urban living is causing Boston to grow at its fastest rate in decades. The influx has spawned a sweeping transformation of the city, with new residences and office buildings filling the skyline and reinventing commercial districts that once felt hopelessly time-worn.
Almost everywhere you look, it seems, is a new building site: A dozen towers are rising in the downtown area, and city-wide some 5,300 homes are currently under development. Boylston Street near Fenway Park is humming with construction during the day and crowds of diners at night. Downtown Crossing has lured fine restaurants and hundreds of luxury residences. And even once rough-hewn neighborhoods such as South Boston are increasingly drawing gourmet food stores, hip bars, and tony apartments.
The population surge has thoroughly reversed the suburban migration that began in the 1950s, when Boston peaked at about 800,000 people. Head counts in the South End and downtown have jumped by 20 percent since 2000.
In just one year alone — 2010 — Boston’s population grew by 7,500 people, and is now above 625,000, its highest level since the 1970s, according to city data.
Though largely driven by the generation between 20 and 34, the city is also swelling as empty-nesters trade suburban homes for urban pied-a-terres, and more young families opt for Boston over the traditional move to the suburbs in search of better schools. Regardless of background and interests, these people are drawn by the convenience and energy of busy urban neighborhoods.
“I like the feeling of being surrounded by people,” said Ece Gulsen, 27, who grew up on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast and now lives in the Charlestown Navy Yard to be near the water.
Companies are also moving into Boston to attract talented workers, developers are responding with even more housing, and restaurateurs, sensing a growing appetite for inventive food and entertainment, are opening eateries in places that defy conventional wisdom.
During the last two decades, Brad Fredericks, proprietor of Fajitas & ’Ritas, has watched the changes wash through the city’s downtown, where he recently opened a new eatery, the Back Deck grill on West Street. First, he said, Suffolk University and Emerson College expanded. Then the Boston Opera House was renovated, and the Paramount and Modern theatres reopened. Businesses then formed an association to help improve the area, and hundreds of apartments and condominiums are now under construction.
“I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been,” he said. “There have always been a lot of activity generators down here. But the crowds have become more consistent. You see more people strolling around.”
The Boston real estate market is one of the strongest in the country, according to the Urban Land Institute, in part because of its strong housing market and the medical and technology companies who want to be near its population of highly educated 20- to 34-year-olds.
Maureen McAvey, a ULI fellow who specializes in retail development, said young professionals have particular preferences for housing, shopping, and travel that dictate how a city grows. For one, they are more willing to live in small spaces. They don’t feel the need to own a car, and make more frequent shopping trips.
“From a consumer standpoint, we’ve seen a large increase in people buying food on a two- to three-day basis,” McAvey said. “This generation wants the access and convenience that the city provides. They are much less interested in having a big lawn.”
But it is not just young workers queuing up for the city. Dick Reynolds, 67, relocated with his wife to a two-bedroom condominium in the South End when their kids moved out of their old home in Needham.
“We’re delighted with it,” he said. “We’ve always loved the ambiance of the city. And we can go to a variety of things without getting into the car. We don’t have to worry about parking, cutting the grass, or shoveling snow.”
Though positive in many respects, the population growth creates many challenges for city officials and residents alike: crowded schools, roads, and transit lines, and harder-to-find housing at moderate prices.
“It’s virtually impossible for someone of my income level to own or rent in the city,” said Quinton Kerns, a 27-year-old urban designer who pays $600 a month to share a Harvard Square apartment with five roommates. And with $150,000 in student loan debt, Kerns doesn’t see himself moving up in the housing market anytime soon.
“It’s frustrating — I can’t just go to the community of my choosing,” he said. “I’m at the mercy of what’s affordable to me.”
Even though Boston added more units of housing in the last decade than in the three previous decades combined, the pace of new development is not keeping up with all the people who want to live here. The Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University predicts that unless annual housing production in the Boston area doubles — from 6,000 units to 12,000 units a year — already sky-high prices will soar.
“The circumstances call for a very different approach to housing,” Dukakis center director Barry Bluestone said. “There’s much more demand for multifamily rentals and condos. We need to get communities to rezone to allow for that kind of housing.”
Average rents in Boston are about $1,700 a month. But much of the new housing built in the past few years are luxury residences that command monthly rent of $4,000 and more. Both the city and state have launched initiatives to build more moderate-priced housing; the Compact Neighborhoods program by the Patrick administration aims to spur construction of 10,000 multifamily housing units a year in Massachusetts, largely to retain young workers being priced out of the market.
Mayor Thomas Menino’s administration has begun encouraging developers in the South Boston Innovation District to build micro-housing units — tiny apartments with rents that people just starting out can afford.
Yet here too that goal is proving elusive. At Factory 63, a newly renovated building with units as small as 375-square-feet, so many people applied for its first group of apartments that a lottery was required to parcel them out. The prices ended up at $1,700 to $2,400 a month, a few hundred dollars higher than officials had initially hoped.
“Just because the units are smaller doesn’t mean you can build them cheaply,” said Kelly Saito, president of Portland, Ore.-based developer Gerding Edlen, which built Factory 63 on Melcher Street and is also constructing a 21-story housing tower on A Street.
Boston already has among the highest construction and land acquisition costs in the country, he said, while a building full of studio-sized apartments means many more expensive kitchen and bathroom fixtures than normal.
“I think the effort to produce lower cost housing can be achieved at least partially,” Saito said. “But it really depends on where the expectations lie.”
Meanwhile Boston is grappling with another by-product of its popularity: crowded classrooms. Enrollment in city schools next year is expected to be at its highest in a decade, with another 1,200 children entering the school system, mostly at the lower grades. The additional students will require a $61 million increase to the city’s school budget, according to a recent report to the school committee.
Boston officials are in the midst of changing the classroom assignment process to make it more predictable and to provide easier access to quality neighborhood schools.
One of the fastest changing neighborhoods is the Fenway area, where the population increased 15 percent from 2000 to 2010. For decades its main boulevard — Boylston Street — was a scrubby, traffic-choked row of gas stations and repair shops. But in just a few short years, several modern, sleek apartment and retail buildings have gone up, and the strip now boasts a sushi place, Southern barbecue restaurant, and popular nightspots that spill crowds well into the night.
Dave DuBois, chief executive of the Franklin Restaurant Group, said the neighborhood’s rapid growth has quickly produced a creative food scene that is entirely distinct from Fenway Park and nearby Lansdowne Street.
“Five years ago, if I opened a restaurant in the Fenway, people would say, ‘Oh, you doing beer and nachos? Wings?,’ ” said DuBois, whose company opened Citizen Public House, a fine whiskey bar on Boylston Street that serves a pork pate melt. “The neighborhood has the energy of people in motion. Top restaurateurs are taking a serious look at it.”
In February developer Samuels & Associates proposed construction of another 22-story residential and retail building called The Point — a sharply-angled glass building that would replace a row of run-down retail buildings at Boylston and Brookline Avenue.
Mai, the Beacon Hill renter, said she would love to move into one of the new buildings rising across the city, but the prices remain stratospheric. She said she and her boyfriend are able to afford the $1,600 a month rent in their Beacon Hill unit. But her landlord has already increased the rent once, and may try do so again.
Mai is beginning to consider other options, but like many in her age group, communities outside the city are not among them.
“I think the farthest I would go is the South End,” said Mai. “I know a lot of people want to live in the suburbs because they crave the extra space, but it’s never been something I’ve wanted. I’m happy staying around the city.”
By Brian Ballou | The Boston Globe | February 21, 2013
More than 1,000 high school students from across Massachusetts marched from Faneuil Hall to the State House Thursday, calling for increased funding for youth jobs and asking that more companies create summer positions for teens.
“This is important for me to be here, begging these legislators for more jobs, because we are the future,” said Sheraine Blake, 18, a senior at the Boston Community Leadership Academy, as she stood on the State House steps. “And to save kids from being out on the street and doing things they shouldn’t be doing, why not open up more jobs for us?”
“It will cut down on drugs and all the violence,” she added.
The students, who hailed from at least a dozen cities and towns, chanted “We want jobs” as they wound through downtown on their way to the State House. Once there, they were briefed on how to approach elected officials about their concerns. State Representative Elizabeth A. “Liz” Malia, a Democrat who represents Jamaica Plain, met with the students, as did several other state legislators.
The annual demonstration, organized by the Boston-based Youth Jobs Coalition, began in the summer of 2009, when the Legislature proposed cutting 2010 state funding for youth jobs by 50 percent, because of a lack of federal money.
About 700 youths showed up that year to protest the cut to $4 million, and the Legislature eventually found $4 million in an unused emergency fund to restore total spending — used for the creation of municipal jobs for teens — to $8 million. Spending remained at $8 million in 2011 and last year rose to $9 million, according to officials with the Boston-based Youth Jobs Coalition.
Even with that funding, the coalition says employment of high-school age youth has fallen dramatically, citing a 2012 report by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies that put teen employment at a record low of 27 percent, compared with 54 percent in 1999.
A second component of the youth jobs program, subsidies from the state to private companies to hire and train youth, has been slashed, from $7 million to $2.8 million, said Lew Finfer, an adult leader of the Youth Jobs Coalition.
“That has really hurt the effort,” he said.
Finfer said the coalition is seeking summer jobs that pay about $2,500 for up to seven weeks. He said that in Boston, there are 45 companies that have workforces with more than 500 employees that are not hiring young people, and 357 companies that have more than 100 employees that are not hiring teens.
“We are really pushing on those companies to consider creating jobs for youths,” he said.
To pay for state subsidies for those jobs, Finfer said students are urging legislators to accept Governor Deval Patrick’s $1.9 billion tax hike proposal, and the ‘Act to invest in our Communities,’ which was cosponsored by 50 legislators. That act proposes increased income tax and capital gains tax on higher-income residents.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino spoke inside Faneuil Hall before the youth march Thursday, saying that every year of his administration, creating jobs for youth has been at the top of his to-do list.
“It’s a no brainer . . . when you put young people to work, it creates opportunities for you, it’s a learning process, to build up new relationships,” Menino said. “When January starts, my number one priority is getting summer jobs for our young people.”