Boston metro area is among most economically integrated in the US, Pew Research study finds

The Boston metro area is becoming more segregated by income, but ranks as the most integrated of the nation’s 10 largest metro areas along class lines, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

Just 8 percent of upper-income households in the Boston metro area live in census tracts where a majority of households are upper-income as well, showing that most wealthy residents live in areas with a range of income levels.

By comparison, 24 percent of wealthy households in Houston, and 16 percent of those in New York, live in areas where most families share their income bracket.

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Income segregation is more pronounced among the poor. In Boston, 28 percent of low-income households live in generally low-income areas. Still, that is the second lowest percentage of the 10 largest metro areas, behind Atlanta at 26 percent. In New York, more than 40 percent of low-income households live with people in the same income bracket.

Nationally, almost one-quarter of all census tracts are solidly segregated by class. In 2010, 28 percent of lower-income households lived in low-income areas, up from 23 percent in 1980.

The ten largest metro areas, in order of population, are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington, D.C., Miami, Atlanta, and Boston.

The study, which broke down income levels in more than 67,000 census tracts, was released Wednesday. An average census tract has about 4,200 residents.

Nationally, rich and poor are increasingly living with people their same economic status, the report found. Over the past three decades, the share of low-income residents clustered together rose to 28 percent from 23 percent. Among the wealthy, the percentage rose to 18 percent from nine percent.

In all but three of the nation’s 30 largest metro areas, residential segregation by income deepened.

Researchers said the trend has been fueled by the rise in income inequality, and has intensified in cities with fast-growing populations, such as Houston, Phoenix, and Miami.

The dwindling middle class is largely a result of an increase in wealthier households, which are now 20 percent of the total. Upper-income homes were defined as earning at least $104,000 a year, while low-income households earned less than $34,000. Regional adjustments were made to account for cost-of-living differences.

Despite the greater concentration of rich and poor, more than three out of four neighborhoods remain middle or mixed income, and even wealthy neighborhoods include substantial numbers of low-income residents, and vice versa.

“Upper-income households have grown at a faster rate than other income groups over the past several decades, and thus all groups are more likely to be exposed to them,” the report found.

For more information visit http://pewresearch.org.

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