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Black residents are less prosperous in Boston compared to suburbs, says study

Maya Shavit
Black residents are less prosperous in Boston compared to suburbs, says study
Suffolk County, where Boston sits, had the worst prosperity score in the state, with a score of 49. PHOTO: GARY HIGGINS/BOSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL

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If you are a Black resident of Massachusetts, your economic opportunities may be worse inside of Boston compared to the rest of the state, according to a report released by the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility.

The report tabulated the differences in prosperity in counties across the U.S. The research includes an interactive map that shows specific disparities.

Generally, the report “found that outcomes almost everywhere lag for Black residents against white peers,” said Dominic Williams, an associate partner at McKinsey and leader at the institute. But it also found substantial differences in the prosperity of Black residents in Suffolk County as compared with bordering counties like Middlesex and Norfolk.

A main scoring metric in the study was the economic outcome level, a score ranging from 1 to 100 reflecting the level of prosperity for Black and Latino residents in a single county compared to all Black and Latino residents across the U.S. A score of 50 is average with the U.S. as a whole.

The best county for Black Massachusetts residents according to the report is Norfolk County, with an outcome score of 65.5. Middlesex and Worcester County follow closely behind, at 64.7 and 63.2 respectively.

But Suffolk County, where Boston sits, had the worst score in the state, with an outcome score of 49.

Greater Boston has diverse economic engines and larger population, according to the report. The economic distribution of the area lends itself to have some of the largest disparities in the state that include gaps of opportunity in the job market and healthcare availability.

Individuals living on the peripheries of cities generally experience better outcomes, but owning a home remains difficult for people both inside and outside of the city, said Williams.

“There are challenges around, whether it be affordability, accessibility or supply on the housing side,” said Williams.

The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, or BECMA, was born after the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston published its “Color of Wealth” study in 2015 that showed the median net worth of Black Bostonians was only $8, compared to the $247,500 median net worth of white Bostonians. BECMA’s mission is to expand access to economic opportunities and improve economic outcomes for Black communities by pushing for more inclusive procurement.

“The McKinsey study details how Black outcomes are generally better in suburban and high-growth areas where Black residents are underrepresented,” said Xavier Andrews, chief communications director of BECMA. “This is a huge shift from 40 years ago, when more than three-quarters of the region’s Black population lived in Boston.”

Greater Boston’s counties are comparable to other areas of the country with similar populations and community demographic distributions. Black residents of New York City have slightly worse prosperity levels compared to Boston, while those in Chicago have slightly better outcomes.

The report sees locally based solutions as the key for remedying the disparities and calls for a collaborative approach to tackling the needs of Black Americans struggling more than their white counterparts.

“Those who have had real success partially because they are able to very specifically target the version of a housing impediment or an early childhood impediment that is unique to an area and unlocks the ability of a people to get full benefit,” said Williams.

This story originally ran in the Boston Business Journal on June 26, 2024.

Black Economic Mobility, Black Massachusetts residents, business, prosperity