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What the New Census Numbers Mean for Your Neighborhood

by David Trumbull -- April 15, 2011

What do the 2010 United States Decennial Census returns mean for Post-Gazette readers? By Post-Gazette readers I mean readers in Boston’s North End, where the Italian-American Voice of Massachusetts is published, or in East Boston, where the paper maintains a satellite office. Of course, the Post-Gazette has a much wider readership throughout Boston and the Commonwealth, but I look at the two Boston neighborhoods that have historically had large Italian-American populations.

East Boston is Ward One and contains 14 precincts. Although “Eastie” is still sometimes thought of as an Italian neighborhood, the fact is that already by the time of the 2000 census 10 of the 14 precincts were either majority or substantially Hispanic, leaving four precincts, 11 through 14, which make up the Orient Heights neighborhood as majority White, which in this case means largely Italian-American.

In 2000 East Boston, overall, was 50% White and 39% Hispanic, with Asians being 4% and Blacks 3%. By 2010 the overall numbers for Eastie had shifted to 53% Hispanic, 37% White, and the Asian and Black percentages stayed the same. All numbers thus far have been for total population. The census returns are further broken down by race for population aged 18 years and over, and those data tell an even more dramatic story of the changed complexion of East Boston.

The White adult population in 2000 was 54% of the total and in 2010 dropped to 41%. The Hispanic adult population in 2000 was 36% and by 2010 rose to 49%. Or, in census enumeration, there were 19,078 Whites in East Boston in 2000 and 15,051 in 2010, with 13,018 being adults, leaving 2,033 White children in 2010. The Hispanic population in 2000 was 14,990 and 21,419 in 2010, with 15,380 being adults, leaving 6,039 Hispanic children in 2010. In other words, not only did the Hispanic population grow by 43% from 2000 to 2010 while the White population declined by 21%, the Hispanic population is younger, with nearly three times as many Hispanic as White children in East Boston.

In summary, East Boston continues a long tradition of being one of the first places for new groups of immigrants, whether the Irish in the 19th century, the Italians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and now Hispanic immigrants of the late 20th and early 21st centuries seeking a better life for themselves and their children.

The story of the North End—at least a far as what the census data say—is quite different from that of East Boston. East Boston, which had overall 5.5% population growth from 2000 to 2010 and the North End, which had 5.1% growth, both grew at just slightly higher rates than the overall 4.8% for the City. But whereas East Boston saw a large shift of population by ethnic group, the North End, with a 91% White population (was 94% in 2000) remains the whitest of neighborhoods in an otherwise 53% minority city.

Finally, “Thank you” to every Boston resident who responded to the 2010 Census! These data will be important in determining representation in Congress and how tax dollars are directed at local communities.