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Black and Latino residents west of Boston face deep inequities, report finds

A view from City Hall of downtown Framingham, one of 39 cities and towns in the MetroWest region.
A view from City Hall of downtown Framingham, one of 39 cities and towns in the MetroWest region.Jessica Rinaldi/GLOBE STAFF

At a time when the nation is grappling with the issue of racial injustice, newly released data is highlighting the deep inequities faced by Black and Latino residents in the region west of Boston.

In an online report issued this month, Foundation for MetroWest presents statistics underscoring the racial and ethnic disparities in areas ranging from infant mortality and adult education levels to poverty and incarceration.

Among the findings are that in 2014-2018, 27 percent of Latino children under the age of 18 and 21 percent of Black children lived in poverty, compared with 7 percent of white children and 8 percent of Asian children.

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Fifty percent of white residents and 65 percent of Asian residents age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 33 percent of Black residents and 27 percent of Latino residents in that age category.

In 2015, 38 of every 10,000 Latino residents were incarcerated, compared to 32 among Black residents, 10 for white residents, and 4 for Asian residents.

“The perception is that the MetroWest is a family-oriented place, a place with access to quality education, with opportunities for well-paying careers, and a good quality of life,” said Jay Kim, the foundation’s executive director. “Yet the data tells us we are not immune from the complex challenges of racial disparities that exist in America.”

Jay Kim is executive director of the Foundation for MetroWest.
Jay Kim is executive director of the Foundation for MetroWest.Handout

The data serves as an update to Impact MetroWest, a report issued a year ago by the foundation that features thousands of data points about the region in areas from demographics and the economy to education and cultural life, illustrating its strengths as well as challenges. The foundation plans a full update to Impact MetroWest in January 2022.

“When incidents of racial violence and police brutality became huge focal points of conversation across the country this past summer,” Kim said, the foundation joined others in wanting to learn more about “why the country was struggling so much with racial injustice.” He said that prompted the group to compile data focusing on that issue in the region.

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As with the original report, the information for the recent update was compiled for the foundation by the Center for Governmental Research, much of it from US Census data. In both reports, MetroWest is defined as 39 cities and towns in Middlesex, Worcester, and Norfolk counties.

The new report stressed the importance of understanding how racial disparities that exist on the state and national level “impact neighbors in the MetroWest region.”

While each of the data points presented is “illuminating and indisputable on its own,” together they tell “a broader narrative about the effects of systemic racism that can be traced back 400 years beginning with the history of slavery in the United States,” the foundation said.

“Though slavery has long been abolished, systems and policies across the United States have been built with the oppression of people of color in mind,” the report added, citing such examples as redlining in housing, employment discrimination, unequal access to financial services and capital, and inequitable education systems as examples.

Some of the report’s other findings include that the 2014-1018 homeownership rate was 31 percent for Latino residents, 35 percent for Black residents, 58 percent for Asian residents, and 68 percent for white residents.

Kim said he is struck by how many of the disparities revealed in the report seem intertwined, citing for example the connection between education and income levels.

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Household median income in 2014-2018 was $52,000 for Latino residents and $59,000 for Black residents, compared with $92,000 for white residents and $104,000 for Asian residents.

In 2019, 38 percent of economically disadvantaged third-graders in the region were readingproficient, compared with 71 percent of other students. Black and Latino students were 43 percent and 38 percent proficient, respectively; white and Asian students were 67 percent and 76 percent proficient, respectively.

David Podell, president of MassBay Community College — which has campuses in Wellesley and Framingham — said the report “seems to be a very helpful mirror held up to our community. A wide variety of variables were looked at through the lens of race and ethnicity ... which really help us understand our community.”

“The MetroWest is subject to the same racial inequities and disparities as most communities are,” Podell said. “If we are serious about challenging the status quo, we need to know where we are through this kind of data.”

Kim said he hopes the report will raise awareness among local policy makers and the general public about the importance of confronting the persistent inequities.

“It allows people to examine the data and try to understand it in a little different way,” he said. “I think these injustices might not seem evident as we go about our daily lives, but the data makes them indisputable. ... It helps us think about how we need to address these issues.”

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For the full report, go to www.impactmw.org/racial-equity.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.