MAP: Areas of Opportunity in Greater Boston (Click on map to enlarge, click again to shrink)

Information for this map is taken from the “Opportunity Mapping” project developed by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. The Kirwan Institute uses opportunity mapping to analyze the geographic inequity of resources and opportunities within various metropolitan regions. Nineteen indicators of opportunity were assessed. Examples included: student poverty rates, school drop out rates, unemployment rates, population on public assistance, neighborhood vacancy rates, homeownership rates, etc. These indicators were assessed separately in three different opportunity areas (educational opportunity, economic opportunity, and neighborhood/housing equality). Indicators were determined to either be impediments to opportunity (i.e. high poverty rates) or conduits to opportunity (low unemployment rates). After factoring in all of the indicators, each census tract was given a rating ranging from very low opportunity to very high opportunity. The map of greater Boston shows that very high opportunity census tracts exist primarily in the suburbs.

1970s–Present: Disparate Impact of
Local Land Use Regulations

In response to the growth of the suburbs, local governments enact zoning policies such as large minimum lot requirements, minimum multifamily zoning, and age restricted zoning which restrict lower income families and families of color from moving to the suburbs.


While redlining institutionalized racial segregation in the cities, it was the development of the suburbs via the construction of Route 128 that magnified the effects of segregation by increasing the physical separation between whites and people of color. Municipalities responded to the subsequent in-migration of jobs and people to the suburbs by enacting rigid zoning ordinances. Zoning regulations were created to control density, protect open space, and artificially inflate housing prices. Strict zoning restrictions are still in use today and have a disparate impact on African Americans and Latinos and in particular family households, because they limit affordability and the number of rental multifamily housing opportunities.

Specific land use policies that impact segregation