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Boston keeps growing; population could reach 760,000 by 2030, report says

Projected growth in Boston population

A report out this week by the BPDA's research division shows Boston's population could reach a number not seen since the 1950s, in large part due to people moving here from overseas - many of them college students.

By 2030, the report says, Boston's population should hit 760,000. Boston's peak population of 801,444 came during the 1950 census, after which the city saw continued declines until it hit 562,994 in 1980. It then began to slowly rise, with growth becoming more explosive after 2010, according to BPDA figures.

According to the BPDA, the growth is being driven largely by international migration. Although roughly 57,000 people now move to Boston from other parts of the US, that's balanced by a nearly equal out migration from Boston elsewhere. Bostonians now have about 3,700 babies a year, but roughly 6,700 people from outside the US are now moving into the city each year, according to the BPDA.

This positive net gain is due to migration due to the large influx of 17 to 24 year olds.

The report adds:

While the 20-29 cohort is projected to remain the largest, the 2030 projections show increases in the older age cohorts.

BPDA projections project decreases in the population share of 15 to 29 year olds, and increases in the share of the 65+ population.

Complete report (1.7M PDF).

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...their 20 foot long, 10 ton, steel street-boats in nineteen fif....OH WAIT, they had working trains/ street trolleys then.

Voting closed 76

The average size of families was much larger. Don’t think little Johnny was driving his Buick to 1st grade.

Voting closed 23

But I think buses and trains in the 1980s were 100x worse in terms of schedules than they are now. I can't count the amount of times where the 51 bus would just miss or skip stops because they were in a rush or they simply wouldn't have enough buses to fill their route. Saturday runs? Forget about it. They were supposed to run every hour and 9/10 times they would go every 2 hours. D and C line trains? they were filled they wouldn't stop, they would just keep going and mess up the schedules worse than the Bus Drivers would. Hell sometimes the 51 drivers wouldn't even complete their route from Cleveland Circle to Forest Hills. I had been on buses where the driver would ask if anyone was going in between. If not, he would just cut down Allandale and skip the rest of the route! That happened several times.

Maybe the 1950s the transit system was fine, but in the 1980s it was pretty crappy I'll tell you that.

Voting closed 27

by the 80s we were harvesting the fruit of 30ish years of the tire, gas, and automotive companies conspiring to kill public transit via rail.


Don't worry the CEOs were all fined $1 (this isn't even a joke) and the federal judges probably all got new Cadillacs to drive home.
Good times, good times.

Voting closed 23

I know the report doesn't focus on this, but the immediate question that comes to my mind is where everyone lived when the population was higher than it is now. Is it just a case of more people on average living in a given residence? In any case I didn't realize that the population was so much higher for such a long period of time. Very interesting.

Voting closed 24

People had larger families way back when and had no problem having their 6-8 kids share bedrooms in a small 1000 sq/ft ranch or apt.

Voting closed 56

At least in my case. 7 kids, 2 parents, 3 bedrooms. I grew up in the 50s. All the girls in one bedroom, all the boys in another bedroom. My parents had a combination office for my father and bedroom.

Voting closed 27

801,444 people
222,079 housing units
3.60 persons/household

683,000 people
293,500 housing units
2.32 persons/household

In some Boston neighborhoods, the persons per household is much less; for example, 02116 (Back Bay/South End) is around 1.68 persons/household and almost half of all households are made up of one person.

In 02210, the Seaport, it's 1.26 persons per household, on average.



Voting closed 44

a pretty densely populated ghetto of sorts. The BRA bulldozed it to "beautify" the place.

Voting closed 26

i don't know how many people were housed in these neighborhoods, but a number of areas were completely leveled for infrastructure projects (see: west end, the shelved I695 through Roxbury, etc)

Voting closed 15

1) Families lived together longer, there was not a stigma about it. You lived at home until you got married in many cases and even then my family talks about how couples would sometimes stay at home for a few years to save a few dollars... so you may have had the Parents, the kids and in many cases the spouses of the kids in one big house. That big house is now occupied by just one person.

2) Elderly people being able to stay in place longer. That large home that housed all those family members? Now it is just Grandma.

3) SRO, Single resident occupancy these days means a single person for a single apartment. Back then if you could not live at home any longer you most likely ended up in SRO housing. Now we look down at it but back then it was a viable solution. It also allowed that older widdow money if she rented out the rooms.

4) Much larger families. Immigrants on average tend to have more kids. Especially European immigrants. Both of my grandparents were one of over 10!

People complain about congestion etc. I ask, what would these communities have looked like if the big city purge never happened?

Voting closed 28

My family of four lives in a house that had a family of 7 in it during the 70s-80s. That's pretty typical across the residential neighborhoods, including families living 5-7 deep in a floor of a triple decker where now parents will just move out of a triple decker one floor apartment when they have more than one kid.*

* Anecdotal source- the triple deckers near my house where this happens every few years.

Voting closed 21

Build more housing. Ignore the NIMBYs. Upzone the suburbs. Do whatever it takes. No more games. No more listening to people like Michael Flaherty in Boston or wealthy restrictionists in Newton. This is a seven-alarm fire and no one is treating it that way. Between lack of housing and bad transportation, this region is going to collapse sooner rather than later.

Voting closed 43

I wonder whether the projections account for the fact that a small bump in population will result in a huge bump in average rents? That's what happens in a saturated housing market.

Voting closed 22

" in large part due to people moving here from overseas - many of them college students."

Have the local universities (that aren't closed due to poor enrollment) growing that much? Northeastern appears level with the 1990s as @ 25000 students. BU also seems flat. Where are all these new kids going to school?

Voting closed 19

Other question is right now there are about 3700 kids per grade cohort in BPS. Assuming ins and outs balance out and a decent number of those 3700 babies born each year will not enter BPS (due to many families moving when kids reach school age) - what does this portend for BPS enrollment. Not enough info to know - but sounds like we could easily see BPS enrollment per grade drop to around 3000 or less.

Are the immigrants a large enough number to keep BPS population at least steady - this has to be new arrivals of school age kids because if they are born here they are already in that count of 3700 babies annually.

Voting closed 15

I meant where are these college kids going to college but your point is valid as well.

Voting closed 14

The projected age distribution suggests that the share of the population that is 0 to 14 will remain steady at 14%. That is, if we had around 86K kids in 2010, we should have around 98K kids in 2020 and around 106K kids in 2030.

I don't see how we could expect a drop of students by 19% (3700 to 3000) when the projection is for the number of kids under 15 to increase by 13.5% by 2020 and 23% by 2030.

That many charter schools?

Voting closed 15

3700 times 14 is about 52k kids. I assume that of those 3700, a number will not attend BPS. Move out, private school and charter are all options. There are about 8k charter seats now I think. Net out another 4k for other options and 3700 times 14 school years less 12k is about 40k students. To keep student populations at 50k, about 1000 kids a year have to come from those immigrant populations. Doable, but it would seem that BPS will struggle to keep population stable. Not a criticism, just demographics.

(And I take anything from the BPDA with a grain of salt - remembering this is the organization that underestimated the value of Winthrop Square by a factor of over three-and that's supposedly in their area of expertise!)

Voting closed 12

Your numbers don't jive. If you reduce from 3700 to 3000, that's a 19% reduction. How do you postulate a 19% reduction when this population projection goes just as far in the opposite direction?

Also, you're double counting kids. The number of 54K kids (aka your 3700 per grade) is what is given by BPS as how many they educate currently. That number does not include private, parochial, and charter school kids, which BPS does not educate. Those kids, per BPS, are an additional 22K kids in Boston (29% of the kids in Boston, or in your terms 1,500 per grade cohort). Look for yourself. There are actually more than 74K school-age kids here now.

If tens of thousands of extra kids move to or are born in Boston, as per the projection above, and the BPS population simultaneously decreases by ten thousand, as you project, then where are those tens of thousands of new kids who aren't in BPS going? Where are you imagining that new capacity will be?

Voting closed 19

But these kids move through the system and graduate.

If 3700 kids a year are born in the city and 30% don't go to BPS, that's about 2600 kids (assuming none move out or are replaced with kids moving in).

So that means of the 6000 plus net new residents, effectively all immigrants, we need 1100 students in that population just to keep BPS population level. All pretty generous assumptions.

The question I'm asking is jow do we get to 90000 plus school age kids with only 3700 babies a year and maybe 1500 immigrants of school age. Even assuming all the babies stay in the city and go to school and adding 1800 immigrant kids, that's still only 77k or so kids, or a flat student population.

Voting closed 10

Upthread, it's been established repeatedly that the number of 3700 is the approximate number BPS educates per grade level, for a total of 54,000.

The number of additional Boston kids who don't go to BPS is about 1500 per grade level.

Here again is the source for that information.

The total (drum roll please) is about 5300 kids per grade level, or a total of 74,429 school-age children currently in Boston.

If you can't get to where you understand those figures, it's pretty pointless for you to play at making up new numbers based on your imagination.

Look, the presentation even has figures for how many kids are born in the city. Page 13: "Boston has averaged 7,900 births a year since 2000."

Why do you need to make stuff up when the real numbers are available to you?

Voting closed 12

I get that. But if there are 3700 babies per year and 30% of kids don't go to BPS, where does BPS find another 1100 students a year to keep population steady? Is the BPDA dropping them by stork into random households?

Adam cites a number of 3700 born to Bostonians, not 7900. Lots of people come from other towns to have babies at our hospitals that don't live here. Is Adam making stuff up?

Voting closed 11

Which is odd since they are literally the number of births. However, the question is whether the data is for births that occur in the City of Boston regardless of place of residence of the mother (there are no hospitals in Brookline, for example) or whether the data is for births to mothers whose given residence is Boston (discounting the women from all over the place who avail themselves of the Brigham, the top rated Ob/Gyn department) regardless of which municipality they give birth in (I've known Boston residents who have given birth in Cambridge and for some reason Chelsea.)

Of course, then you have to look at migration flows. As the anecdotes say, a lot of parents move when their first kid hits 5.

Voting closed 10

I have no idea what the two of you are talking about, tbh, but here's some more data.

The BPDA projection shown above is one of three included in the report. It is more aggressive than the others, which show less growth.

The other estimates might give you more stuff to argue about.


Voting closed 11

The presentation linked to, on page 13, states a birthrate of 7,900 per year. I don't see any source for a rate of 3,700 births per year. The presentation does list a death rate of around 3,700 per year. Perhaps Adam mistyped.

If Adam linked to any source for a birth rate of 3,700 births a year, that would help. It's not the presentation in question, and is starkly at odds with the presentation in question. I believe 3,700 is entirely erroneous as anything but the death rate or the average number of students in a grade at BPS.

The number given in the presentation (7,900) is for Boston residents being born, not for people giving birth in Boston. Hospitals in Boston deliver around 20,000 babies a year, per the state birth statistics.

So, to recap: there are not 3,700 babies a year. There are 7,900 babies a year. About a third of them move away before school starts (if you've ever lived next to a series of families with kids under five, raise your hand), and we end up with about 5,300 kids per grade year, 71% of whom attend BPS. Which is about 3,700.

Voting closed 13

BPDA projects there will be 98,000 children under 14 years old by next year.

Maybe, based on where we stand now, but I can't see any growth in BPS enrollment, based on trends during the past two decades. It's stayed around 54,000 students, with the remainder in charter schools, parochial, etc.

Voting closed 13

Don't believe any university's enrollment claims. They cook the numbers to tell the story they wanna tell. They never willingly give up actual body count, it's always a formula of "Full Time Equivalent (FTE)" that excludes certain programs, schools, or summer terms to get to the number the city wants to hear.

Voting closed 13

I would assume most of these colleges and universities aren't going to mess around with figures just so the city doesn't mess with them on pilot issues. I'm guessing the billions in federal loans to students is their #1 priority.

Voting closed 12

look at Emerson for instance, Boston Common is basically their "quad" now.

Voting closed 13

We wouldn't need to systematically build up the city as much as help these universities figure out where to build student housing.

Any yet, in WR, Roslindale, and Hyde Park there are basically no college student populations growing in any meaningful way, so I don't buy this theory. In addition, I don't think all the new condos being built out here are solely being occupied by people pushed out of the South End, Fenway (where there is 10K more residents than 15 years ago), etc...

It doesn't seem to add up but I haven't taken the time to read this report in depth...

Voting closed 10

The key thing is that the report is about net flows, which means that these are people staying in Boston, not just coming for school and then immediately leaving. If people went to Boston for college and then immediately left, then the 17-19 growth would be cancelled out by 20-24, but there's also sizable net inward migration in the 20-24 demographic. This also presumably means a decent number of people are moving here as a young adult for reasons other than college.

Voting closed 13

The parents of a college student was helping her move into a triple decker near my house with I assume some classmates last week-end, which could be an outlier or a portend of Roslindale becoming a place for college students. I don't see the value of the area for students, but then again I'm a lifer.

As for Hyde Park, you'd be surprised how many Curry students live on Fairmont Hill.

Of course, I also take the BPDA projections with a grain of salt, especially since they have the gentle slope of population gain suddenly shoot up starting... NOW.

Voting closed 17

I've spent 20 years expecting this to happen. Roslindale is very conveniently located for Northeastern, Wentworth, and Longwood area schools. Sure, it's not as convenient as Mission Hill, but it's still a pretty quick ride on the Orange Line or 39 bus and a bit cheaper.

Voting closed 8

@ 48 square miles of LAND AREA we are geographically almost identical to S.F. Comparison: Atlanta is 130 sq. miles in LAND AREA and 500,000.Seattle is 80 plus sq. miles in land area and around 730,000. NYC, S.F. and Boston are #1,2,3 most DENSELY populated big U.S. cities.

Voting closed 20

I lived in a place with sustained rapid growth -- Austin TX in the 1970's and early 80's -- to paraphrase the old political quote about a senator [".... and this is not Austin kind of growth"]

When I arrived at the U of Texas in the summer of 1974 fresh from MIT -- Austin [city] had a population of very close to 250,000. When I left to come back to New England in the winter of 1984 the population was cresting over 400,000 en route to 1/2 Million in the mid 1990's. Developers were knocking out single family houses daily -- subdivisions [with dozens to hundreds of houses] would be completed every few months. Traffic seemed to double in the time I was in Austin -- hour long jams became commonplace.
from wiki article quoting US Census

Austin Population
1950 132,459 50.6%
1960 186,545 40.8%
1970 253,539 35.9%
1980 345,890 36.4%
1990 465,622 34.6%
2000 656,562 41.0%
2010 790,390 20.4%
2018*1 964,254 22.0%

*1 estimated

That was the kind of sustained growth required to get the kinds of numbers that the BPDA is projecting -- but despite all the big construction downtown and in the Seaport the small construction just is not apparent

from the Boston wiki quoting the US Census

Boston Population
1950 801,444 +4.0%
1960 697,197 −13.0%
1970 641,071 −8.1%
1980 562,994 −12.2%
1990 574,283 +2.0%
2000 589,141 +2.6%
2010 617,594 +4.8%
2018*2 694,583 +12.5%

*2 estimated

I'd guess that if you follow the current trend you get about 650,000 to 675,000 essentially back to where Boston was circa the Apollo project

the 2020 Census should give us a better handle on what is really happening

Voting closed 11

I think we will be surprised, but for undercounting.

Head to Fenway, Southie, Kenmore, Dot, and East Boston to see the dense development going in.

Commuting from 2005 vs 2019 is a night and day difference, not including the big drop the few years after the great recession.

Voting closed 9