Census sheds new light on Hill

July 15, 2011
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By David Taber
Gazette Staff

New US Census data likely provides the most detailed picture of the Mission Hill community ever.

“From us, yes, that is definitely the case. I cannot imagine who else would do more,” Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) Deputy Director of Research Mark Melnik told the Gazette.

The BRA last month released a series reports analyzing Boston neighborhoods based on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS information is a “five-year estimate” based on data collected between 2005 and 2009.

According to the report, during that period:

• People between the ages of 18 and 24 made up close to a quarter of the Hill’s population. People between the ages of 25 and 39 made up another 25 percent. Youths below the age of 17 made up about 15 percent; people between the ages of 40 and 60 made up close to 20 percent; and people over 60 made up 15 percent. College-aged students may have been undercounted because many do not live on the Hill year-round, Melnik said.

• About 3,700 Mission Hill residents were born in other states in the U.S. About the same number were born in other countries. Close to 5,200 were born in Massachusetts.

• Twenty-five percent of the Hill’s foreign-born population was from China; 10 percent each was from India and the Dominican Republic; close to 5 percent was from Ireland. The report lists the top 20 countries represented on the Hill.

• Over 30 percent of the Hill homes where another a language other than English is spoken were “linguistically isolate,” meaning no one over the age of 14 speaks English.

• About 45 percent of men and 40 percent of women on the Hill had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

• About half the homes on the Hill were family households and half were non-family households.

• About 40 percent of workers were in the fields of education services, health care or social assistance.

• Even including pre-recession years in the five-year estimate, 20 percent of households made less than $10,000 a year. About 10 percent made more than $100,000 a year.

• Around 50 percent of people who made less than $50,000 a year paid more than a third of their income for rent.

Melnik said that the data in the report has as high as a 5 percent margin of error. Beginning this year, the Census bureau plans to release five-year ACS reports annually, making it possible to track trends in different population characteristics throughout the decade.

The data should be read critically. Melnik said that the ACS’s estimate of the number of units of housing on the Hill is likely mistaken. The 2000 census put that number at 5,848 and the 2010 census had 6,628, but the ACS estimate is 5,695. “I can’t comment as clearly about why that happened,” Melnik said, saying it is unlikely that the Hill’s housing stock shrank and then rose again. The problem is likely a sampling error, he said.

To read the BRA’s full ACS report, see BostonRedevelopmentAuthority.org and select “Research Publications” from the “News and Publications” menu.

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