Census: Jamaica Plain Gets Whiter, More Asian and Less Black and Latino

The Boston Redevelopment Authority released two breakdowns of 2010 Census data. In both, the population of Whites and Asians rose while the neighborhood lost Blacks and Hispanics.

Using one map, the city says Jamaica Plain's population dipped 2 percent since 2000. But by another map, the city says Jamaica Plain's population increased by nearly 5 percent.

It's all in how you draw the boundaries of "Jamaica Plain." The city has broken down the recently-released data from the 2010 Census in two main ways. The first is a mix of Zip Codes and zoning boundaries. The other is by Planning Districts.

But both sets of data show Jamaica Plain is becoming more White and Asian and less Black and Hispanic.

Let's start with that first geography, the mix of Zip Codes and zoning boundaries. We've asked the city to clarify where those boundaries are, as Patch could not find a useful map online at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the agency that digests Census data for the city.

That first breakdown shows Jamaica Plain's population decreasing by 708 residents, from 38,176 in 2000 to 37,468 in 2010.

A racial and ethnic distribution of population [attached at right as a PDF] using the mix of Zip Code and zoning boundaries showed declines of 15 percent in the population of people who listed their race or ethicity as "African American alone" and a 10 percent drop among those who described themselves as "Hispanic or Latino alone."

However, the number of people who described themselves as "White alone" rose 5 percent and the those who described themselves as "Asian alone" rose 10 percent.

But while the ethnic and racial makeup of the neighborhood changed, overall population dipped just 2 percent.

Nathan Jackman, a resident of Jamaica Plain for three years, said he wasn't surprised that the raw population of JP hadn't changed much. “Unless you have open property,” he said, “I would suspect the numbers to remain relatively the same.”

The numbers didn't seem to jibe with the development one recent resident has been seeing.

“I'm surprised the number [of the overall population] hasn't changed much because there's been more development.” said Belinda Smith, who moved to JP two years ago, “maybe people have just been leaving higher density areas for other places.”

However, if you look at Jamaica Plain as defined by "Planning Districts," [attached at right as a PDF] the neighborhood's population rose 5 percent. The changes in ethnic breakdown also differed dramatically from those cited above. In terms of people who chose just one race or ethnicity to describe themselves, the white population rose 13 percent, the Black or African American population plummeted 16 percent and the Hispanic or Latino population dipped 2 percent.

Patch is working on reconciling these two sets of data and we hope to bring you a report soon that shows where the two maps differ. Since the city did not have a "Zip Code and zoning boundary" map available, that analysis could not be completed at this time.

Over 70 percent of Jamaica Plain residents sent their census forms back according to this interactive map put together by the Census Bureau. In some areas, almost 80 percent returned theirs. The national return rate was 74 percent, which matches the return rate from 2000.

The population for Boston increased by 28,453 people from 2000, putting the city's overall population at 617,549. According to the BRA, this marks the first time since 1970 that the population of Boston has exceeded 600,000 people. The population for all of Massachusetts increased by 198,532 people, or 3.1 percent.

The BRA will release more information comparing other categories of data from Census 2000 and Census 2010 within the next week. Look for more Census stories in JP Patch soon.

Jamaica Plain in Census 2010 Zip Code/zoning map Planning District map Total population -1.9 percent +4.5 percent White (only) +5.4 percent +12.5 percent Black (only) -14.6 percent -16 percent Hispanic (only) -9.9 percent -2.2 percent Asian (only) +9.5 percent +26.7 percent Source: BRA analysis of Census data
Raphael April 01, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Gentrification usually means the haves moving in, the have nots moving out. Absent economic data, it still feels like you can read these Census figures as showing that JP has been undergoing a years-long process of gentrification. Whites moving in, blacks & Hispanics moving out. Some of this may have been economic opportunism though: black and Hispanic property owners cashing in their gains during the bubble and moving to other more affordable neighborhoods to start the process again. But surely some of this is blacks and Hispanics getting priced out too.
Chris Helms (Editor) April 01, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Hi Sumner Hiller, yes, I tried to be careful in this story not to conflate race and income level, though of course here in the US those things are often linked. We hope to have future stories using Census data about income level, etc.
Matt April 01, 2011 at 03:04 PM
These high-income Asians coming in at twice the rate of whites and displacing the current residents is a concern to WhoseFood I assume. They should preemptively petition Super 88 and stop them from considering a store in JP as this would only further increase the rate at which these wealthy Asians move in and displace the current residents.
Michael Halle April 01, 2011 at 03:05 PM
There's an amazing tool from the New York Times that allows you to look at ethnicity, income level, and education data from the 2010 census down to the Census track level (much finer than planning districts) or, in some cases, down to groups of 25 people. It covers all the US. Because of the detail of the map, it's more useful for many exploratory purposes. http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/explorer (put in 02130 for a location, for example). Some observations of mine: * If you want to talk about either socio-economic or ethnic diversity in JP, look at Egleston Square. It's significantly more diverse than the other parts of JP. * Property/mortgage values on the map don't reflect the current downturn; you'll see evidence of the mid-decade boom but not the correction.
Bob from JP April 01, 2011 at 10:47 PM
I agree. Let's start Whose Asians? and march against the influx of wealthy, gentrifying Asian people flooding JP
AMGW April 02, 2011 at 02:06 PM
I just looked at the census map and noticed that the areas of JP that typically have high numbers of Latin American and African American Residents, had lower return rates than those areas typically considered "white enclaves" around JP Pond, around and beyond the Jamaica Way, etc. versus areas closer to Roslindale, Roxbury, and Jackson Square? This should be considered in your evaluation, as it will bias some of the data. If fewer Latin American and African American homes are returning census data, the data will be skewed even if it is just slightly. In addition, I would like to see data on mixed race respondents. For example, someone who is not solely African American, but mixed racial parents. There are a lot of folks like this in Boston in general. This will also bias data somewhat if they do not identify themselves as one or the other. While this may not change your story, it makes the information provided possibly clearer and more thorough. There may be other factors as well that could reinforce the observation or create a bias.
Pete Stidman April 02, 2011 at 06:50 PM
Nice work. But the changing composition of the neighborhood does not provide an excuse for accelerating the process of gentrification by the aggressive placement of a grocery store targeted to the affluent right on front line of the gentrification wave. In other words, gentrification is not an excuse for increased gentrification.
Tess Pope April 03, 2011 at 02:50 PM
This is a very murky set of statistics. Exhibit A: I make it a point to never answer the question of “race” except with the obvious scientific answer of “homo sapiens sapiens”. A more accurate term when referring to various groups of peoples is “population”. Even “ethnicity” has become too murky a term to use in conversation if the goal is to actually communicate ideas. Exhibit B: The statistics in the above article refer to those in the community who self-identify as only ONE of the choices. This is murky within murky. Self-identification is of no use for accurate data in this context. And these statistics do not take into account all those people who refuse to honor only one of the choices offered because they know that it would not accurately reflect who they are. Most people have very little idea about their origin past a few generations. The constructs they are holding onto are cultural constructs.
Tess Pope April 03, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Exhibit C: is a challenge. Send a cheek swab to the National Geographic Human DNA Project and learn about your more ancient past. It can be illuminating. This is how a Mexican priest learns that he carries the “Aaron” gene on his Y chromosome, or how a dark skinned man from the American south learns that his mtDNA (from mother to mother) is predominantly European. Exhibit D: Jamaica Plain abounds with people who have married outside of their population (“race”) and produced children that continue to produce children with others outside of each population circle. How is this multitude reflected in the quoted set of statistics? And how do these people react to a set of statistics that utterly excludes them, and yet is used to make points about the community they belong to?
Tess Pope April 03, 2011 at 02:51 PM
There is (currently) only one human race. It is homo sapiens sapiens. Within this race, there are multitudes of ever shifting populations. I believe that the statistics quoted above refer to the respondents understanding of what culture they identify with. And that is useful. But you must not say that it is something else. It is not even a bad approximation of the diversity that is Jamaica Plain. As a census of “race” it is poorly devised and utterly useless. A new paradigm needs to be created to be able to actually study the population of Jamaica Plain and the rest of America as well. It cannot include terms like “race” and “ethnicity”. It cannot use peoples own self-identification regarding which population they see themselves belonging to. While hair texture, eye shape and color and the amount of melanin we have are obvious identifiers, they are, after all, only skin deep.
Chris Helms (Editor) April 03, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Tess, you make excellent points! If you follow the links in the article you'll see the numbers for people who chose two or more "races."
Pat Roberts April 03, 2011 at 04:14 PM
Fortunately, Peter, you don't get to choose what stores decide to do business in what neighborhoods. You talk like there is a special board (Central Committee?) that makes a selection of which stores it will allow in which neighborhoods, and you are critical of their selection in this case. We live in a free market economy, also known as capitalism. That means any store that wants to take a chance on opening a business in a neighborhood is free to do so. If they have assessed the neighborhood incorrectly, and don't get enough customers, then it's their loss. The Central Committee is not involved in that business decision, or any other.
Tess Pope April 03, 2011 at 04:16 PM
I tried Chris, but all I get is a black screen. Any suggestions.
Chris Helms (Editor) April 03, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Hi Tess and anyone interested in looking at the source data: I've uploaded the two city breakdowns as PDFs now. They are in the block to the right of the story. In some browsers, like Firefox, the links don't open.


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