Charlestown is in the Middle of Boston Neighborhood Census

By Seth Daniel

The mid-decade U.S. Census numbers were released by the federal government earlier this month, and an analysis of those numbers for Boston neighborhoods, and for citywide trends, shows Charlestown is in the middle of the pack for most categories, except the numbers of foreign-born persons – which was shown to be growing steadily in other neighborhoods.

The 2014 One-Year American Community Survey from the Census  came out in early December for all categories and areas, including down to blocks and zip codes. Following that release, the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s (BRA) Research Division crunched the numbers and released a report entitled ‘Boston By the Numbers 2015’ last week.

The Census’ American Community Survey is meant to act as a mid-decade update for detailed information on communities in between the major Census efforts – the next being in 2020.

Some of the citywide trends include a greater prevalence of single-female households with children that are in poverty, as well as a population growth fueled by the elderly, young adults and foreign-born persons.

One of the sets of numbers highlighted prominently in the report were the numbers of foreign-born persons in the city. Since 2000, the numbers of foreign-born persons has increased nearly 20 percent, with most coming from the Dominican Republic (13 percent), China (11 percent) and Haiti (8 percent).

“From 2000 to 2014, Boston’s foreign-born population grew from 151,836 to 177,461,” read the report. “The foreign born accounted for 27.1 percent of the city’s population, an increase of 19.2 percent over this time period. Boston has the 7th highest share of foreign-born residents among the 25 largest U.S. cities. Naturalized citizens made up 49 percent of Boston’s foreign-born population, and 51.1 percent of Boston’s children age 0 to 17 lived with at least one foreign-born parent in 2014.”

That statistic was not as prominent in Charlestown, however, where only 18 percent of the population (3,079) in the neighborhood was foreign born. That is contrasted with East Boston, where 51 percent of that neighborhood (22,001) was born in another country – the highest numbers in the city. The Town fell more in line with the numbers of the Back Bay, and Beacon Hill had the lowest percentage of foreign born in the City, with 10 percent.

That increase in foreign born also revealed a troubling statistic for children, as the numbers of children raised by foreign-born parents had a noted decrease in English proficiency.

“From 2000 to 2014, the percentage of residents five years or older speaking a non-English language at home increased from 33 percent to 37 percent,” read the report. “In 2014, 17 percent of all Boston residents five years or older had limited English proficiency, up from 16.3 percent in 2000. Spanish was the most common non-English language spoken at home in Boston.”

Some 90 percent of the children in Boston are native born, but more than half of those native-born children have at least one foreign-born parent.

Another interesting population number came with the amounts of elderly and young adults – two age groups that seemed to drive the City’s overall population growth.

In Charlestown, the numbers of elderly (65 and over) was 11 percent of the population, or 1,947 residents. That was ninth in the City, but closely in line with most other neighborhoods.

Citywide, the number of elderly residents (67,857 people) has grown by 9 percent since 2010 and they make up 10 percent of the entire City population.

For those elderly, in 2000 some 67 percent were white, but in 2014 only 53 percent were white. Some 36 percent of the City’s elderly residents are now foreign-born.

For young adults age 18-34, the population citywide is up by 3 percent since 2010. That group also makes up the bulk of the City’s population, with the largest age group population at 226,906 people. The next largest age group population is those 35-64, who are just behind at 221,458.

In Charlestown, the young adult population has grown, but the neighborhood lags behind other neighborhoods in young adult growth. Out of 23 neighborhoods studied, Charlestown sits at 16th in young adult population – which is 32 percent of the total population (5,650 people). It falls behind young, hip neighborhoods like the Fenway (80 percent), North End (62 percent) and Beacon Hill (58 percent).

One possible explanation for that lower number is that most young adults do not own their homes, and Charlestown has a high owner-occupancy rate. According to the numbers, Charlestown’s owner-occupied housing units are 42 percent, which is sixth in the city. Additionally, Charlestown ranks in the middle with the population of children under 18, at 8th in the city with 18 percent (3,219 children). Dorchester and Roxbury, by comparison, are first with the child populations at 24 percent.

Demographic information for young adults shows that only 15 percent of young adult householders (i.e., not living in a dorm or group quarters) owned their homes. Another 19 percent live at home with a parent or grandparent. Likewise, only 15 percent are married and 82 percent have never been married – though 47 percent hold a Bachelor’s Degree. With Charlestown being more and more a neighborhood where people are settling, buying homes and starting families – the Town may not necessarily fit into the citywide young adult trends.

One of the more troubling trends nationwide and citywide – though perhaps not as prevalent in Charlestown – is the numbers of single-mother households. Statistics within the survey show that those numbers are growing, and what is troubling is that poverty in that category is very high – meaning that poor, single-parent households are once again on the rise.

Statistics citywide showed that 46 percent of family households with children are headed by a single woman, and the poverty rate for those single-mother households is 44 percent.

“Married couple families make up 54.9 percent of all family households,” read the report. “Families that are headed by women with no husband present make up 35.5 percent of all family households. Remaining families are headed by men with no wife present. About 50 percent of children in Boston live with only one parent…The poverty rate is higher for females than males in all age groups. The difference is particularly marked for the 18 to 34 age group, during which females may be disproportionately still enrolled in school or single-handedly caring for small children. Some 46.1 percent of all families with related children under 18 are headed by a single female householder. The poverty rate for families with children headed by single mothers is 43.9 percent.”

That said, one thing that is out of favor citywide is large families, and even families with children.

For family households with children under 18, the numbers are down from 44 percent in 2010 to 42 percent in 2014.

The largest percentage of households in Boston for 2014 was one-person, non-family households, with 37 percent of all households citywide. Family and non-family households made up of only one person or just two-persons accounted for 69 percent of all households in the city.

Meanwhile, some 58 percent of family households had no children under age 18.

Conversely, families of four make up just 9 percent of Boston households in 2014 – with families of three making up 11 percent and families of five or more making up 6 percent.

Such a statistic probably does play out heavily in Charlestown with a large population of empty-nesters and young married couples, though there were no numbers for the Town to back that up.

Yet another interesting piece of data from the report came via the labor workforce, where young women seemed to show more gains than in the past – though the gains depended upon demographics.

Younger women in Boston had a higher educational attainment than men of the same age, and young women had a markedly higher labor force participation than men – though that was not the case in other age groups.

Still, the average income for women was below men, mostly buoyed down by young women presumably in single-parent homes.

“Among those who worked full-time, year-round, median income for males is $60,792 and for females is $51,925,” read the report. “The overall median income for men with income (ages 15 and over) is $32,305. For women it is only $23,829. Women in Boston ages 25-44 have a higher education attainment than men of the same age. However, men over age 45 are more likely than women of the same age to have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Overall, women have a lower labor force participation rate than men, except in the 16 to 24 age group. Women are more likely than men to be employed in sales and office occupations.”

In the 16-24 year old category, some 57 percent of men were in the labor force, while 60 percent of women were in the labor force. That was the only category where women outpaced men.

Women also had a higher percentage than men of working in jobs in management, business, the arts, service occupations, sales or office work. Men only exceeded women in construction/maintenance and transportation industries.

For the foreign-born of both genders, they were employed in a wide variety of sectors, but differed in from native born by occupation. Foreign-born workers (16 percent) were more likely to work in services occupations and less likely to work in managerial or professional occupations.

The poverty rate for the foreign-born workers in Boston was 27 percent, as compared to 21 percent for native-born workers.

Other notes of interest citywide:

  • In 2014, Boston had 253,749 occupied housing units of which 34.9% were owner-occupied – a historically high owner-occupancy rate.
  • Boston is made up of 48.28 square miles and is the second smallest major U.S. city in land area behind only San Francisco.
  • Almost 50 percent of the land parcels in Boston are tax-exempt public or institutional uses – including parks, hospitals and universities.
  • The density of people to land area overall is 13,354 people per square mile, which is between San Francisco and Chicago. For residential land only, the density is 40,772 people per square mile.
  • There were 274,459 housing units in 2014, up 9 percent since 2000.
  • From 1990 to 2014, Boston added 6,588 new hotel rooms for a total of 18,658 rooms in the city.
  • The most prevalent type of residential housing in Boston is the 3 or 4 family home, which made up 24 percent of the housing stock in 2014. Single family homes made up 19 percent.

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