Updated on: 07/09/2022


How Segregation Creates Communities of Color in MA

Throughout history, government and industries have neglected investments in some neighborhoods, especially communities of color, who are more likely to have fewer resources.

Note: Hispanic is used to reflect current data collection practices. We acknowledge this may not be the preferred term. Throughout this report, NH refers to Non-Hispanic. People of color refers to individuals identifying as Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Other. Unless otherwise noted, adults are ages 18+. Data are most recently available for the specified data source.

Towns where more than 50% of the population are people of color tend to be in the Greater Boston area and in cities like Springfield and Brockton. Throughout history, governments and industries have disinvested in some neighborhoods, especially those with communities of color, through racist practices like redlining and land use planning and zoning policies.7, 8 Manufacturing and disposal facilities have also disproportionately been placed in communities of color.9 Additionally, public housing has historically been in low-income areas with a majority Black population.10 These public housing sites tended to be in areas of increased exposure to toxins. In the 1950’s, homeownership loans in the suburbs were offered to low-income White residents while low-income Black residents were targeted for public housing in urban areas.11

Explore redlining maps and learn how the built environment and housing impact where and how people live. Also see "Targeting minority, low-income neighborhoods for hazardous waste sites

Redlining Maps of Boston

Explore redlining maps and learn how the built environment and housing impact where and how people live. Also see "Targeting minority, low-income neighborhoods for hazardous waste sites”.

Boston Race Density

Race Density Map from the 2016-2017 Health of Boston Report.

For more information, explore the ArcGIS US Race and Ethnicity Dot Density map.

MA Towns by Percent of Residents of Color

Zoom is available when viewing map. Hover over each city/town to see percentages.

2020 population estimates from University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute. n indicates count of cities/towns.

Equity Spotlight

Communities of color are more likely to have lower levels of resources, like affordable healthy foods, and connectedness with other neighborhoods.8,12 This is often due to a history and experience of structural racism and racial segregation that hindered communities of color from integrating and socializing with other neighborhoods and groups of people.12

Download the raw data (accessible version) used to create these visualizations.

7 Mitchell, B. (2018). HOLC “Redlining” Maps: The Persistent Structure of Segregation and Economic Inequality. National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Retrieved from https://ncrc.org/holc/

8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2006). Land Use Planning for Public Health: The Role of Local Boards of Health in Community Design and Development. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/publications/landusenalboh.pdf

9 Erickson, J. (2016). Targeting minority, low-income neighborhoods for hazardous waste sites. University of Michigan News. University of Michigan. Retrieved from https://news.umich.edu/targeting-minority-low-income-neighborhoods-for-hazardous-waste-sites/

10 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (1995). U.S. Housing Market Conditions Summary. Retrieved from https://www.huduser.gov/periodicals/ushmc/spring95/spring95.html

11 Gross, T. (2017). A 'Forgotten History' Of How the U.S. Government Segregated America. National Public Radio; Fresh Air. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2017/05/03/526655831/a-forgotten-history-of-how-the-u-s-government-segregated-america

12 Hobson-Prater, T. & Leech, T. (2012). The Significance of Race for Neighborhood Social Cohesion: Perceived Difficulty of Collective Action in Majority Black Neighborhoods. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, XXXIX(1): 89-109. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1877/81f3d59eba3ec0784bae3c5295b35cf9c685.pdf

Indicator selection

This report gathered equity metrics found throughout DPH published data reports in one common location. When choosing the indicators to feature in this dashboard, we focused on publicly available data and the State Health Assessment (SHA) priority indicators. In some instances proxy measures were used if race/ethnicity data were limited (e.g. Hepatitis B Vaccinations Rates in place of Viral Hepatitis Prevalence Rates). Only indicators that had sufficient data for breakdowns by race/ethnicity were included.

Time-frame for Data Shown

In all cases, the most recent data for each indicator are incorporated. For some topics (e.g. hospitalizations for various causes), only older data are available by race/ethnicity. However, the goal of this dashboard is to capture the current experiences of this priority population. As such, the years of data presented are different for each chart; we opted for the most recent data available over using the same (older) year across all indicators in the report

Race/Ethnicity Group Definition and Data Collection

This report presents race/ethnicity data as it is collected and defined by each source. DPH complies with the the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standards and have adapted the recommendations to capture this information. We acknowledge that the race/ethnicity breakdowns presented here may not reflect each group's preferred terms. We recognize that race groups are not monolithic. Grouping into larger categories (e.g. Asian) and grouping Hispanic separately (e.g. Black and Hispanic is not a category in this report) is problematic and may not fully capture the experiences specific groups have. Data on language and disability status are not reflected in this version of the report but we plan to include these in future versions. Detailed information on the specific race/ethnicity group definitions and data collection practices can be found using the links to data sources provided for each chart. The DPH Race/Ethnicity/Language Data Standards Guide provides information on current department wide minimum compliance for collecting, defining, and reporting this information.

Data Suppression

For some charts, race/ethnicity groups may not be shown. This varies by data source and reflects insufficient sample size to support reliable estimates or suppression to protect residents privacy. For more information on the DPH suppression guidelines, please see the Department of Public Health Confidentiality Procedures.

Current Analysis

Unless otherwise noted, the differences between race/ethnicity groups in this report are based on descriptive observations (i.e. estimates are higher or lower than others) and key findings for the data shown in charts do not represent statistically significant differences. Any language that indicates statistical significance is taken directly from reports that have performed these analyses separately from this dashboard. For more information on how analyses were performed and definitions for significance, please see the data source notes provided for each chart.

CI refers to Confidence Interval (if available), which describes the certainty of a value. The Department of Public Health uses a 95% confidence interval.

Future Plans

This initial report focuses on communities of color. Additional dashboards on the other priority populations will be created. We also plan to expand dashboard contents including adding more indicators, updating data currently included, and incorporating intersectionality of populations (e.g. data by race/ethnicity and sexual orientation/gender identity).

Visual representations of statistical significance and additional analytics to compare differences between groups will also be incorporated.