Equity and Innovation Report

Chapter 3: First Quintile

The First Quintile - Most Ethnically Diverse Residents
THE FIRST QUINTILE Most Ethnically Diverse Residents


The first 20 percent of Cambridge households in terms of income is the most racially and ethnically diverse. People in this quintile are more likely to be Black or older, long-term residents who live alone. They tend to be part of Cambridge’s service-sector workforce. The few children who remain in this group are very likely to be in single-parent households.


Neighborhoods with the greatest share of households in the first quintile

Infographic: Strawberry Hill 29.7%
Infographic: East Cambridge 25.5%
Infographic: North Cambridge 24.9%

Sources: 2005–2009 and 2014–2018 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

Chart 3.1: Distribution of Black and White Populations by Quintile, 2018

The first quintile is the heart of Black Cambridge.

People and Households (2009-2018)

This is the only income group in the city where people of color are in the majority, with the slice of the pie growing from 52 percent to 59 percent over the decade. More than a quarter of this population is Black, and a full 40 percent of the city’s Black population is in this quintile. This income tier has gotten older over the past decade and includes fewer children, with 25 percent of the people in this quintile 65 or older, up significantly from 16 percent in 2009. The majority of households are single persons living alone. Children are disappearing faster here than in any other quintile, but of the remaining families with children, nearly 70 percent are headed by a single caregiver.

Over the past decade, the average household income for the first quintile increased by just 6 percent when adjusted for inflation. This is the lowest growth of any quintile.


Increasing population of Black and Asian residents

Infographic: From 2009 to 2018 White non-Latinx went from 48% to 41%, Black went from 26% to 28%, Asian went from 12% to 15%, Latinx stayed at 10%, Another race/AIAN went from 4% to 2%.


Fewer children, more seniors

Infographic: From 2009 to 2018, under 18 went from 19% to 14%, 18 to 24 went from 16% to 17%, 25 to 34 went from 20% to 16%, 35 to 65 went from 30% to 27.5%, 65+ went from 16% to 25%.

Household Type

There are fewer families with children

Infographic: From 2009 to 2018 families with children went from 16% to 12%, families without children went from 10% to 14%, nonfamilies went from 6% to 8%, living alone went from 69% to 66%.

Sources: 2005–2009 and 2014–2018 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

Housing and Community (2009-2018)

Most people in the first 20 percent are renters, although there has been a slight increase in those who own their homes free and clear. Given the high value of housing in Cambridge, this could indicate a low-income population with a relatively high net worth. Although the majority of these households pay half of their income or more for housing, the number spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent has fallen from 67 percent to 56.4 percent of renters and from nearly 80 percent to 67.7 percent of owners. Renters in this quintile are moving less often than they did a decade ago, and more than a third of them (up from a quarter) have lived in their present home for at least 10 years.


More homes owned with no mortgage

Infographic: From 2009 to 2018, renter went from 85% to 83%, owned with a mortgage went from 8% to 7%, owned free and clear went from 7.5% to 10%.

Extreme Cost Burden (>50%)

Fewer extremely cost-burdened households

Infographic: From 2009 to 2018 cost-burdened housholds that are renters went from 67% to 56%, cost-burdened housholds that are owners went from 80% to 68%.


More long-term residents

Infographic: From 2009 to 2018 the share living in current house for 10 plus years went from 24% to 32%.

Sources: 2005–2009 and 2014–2018 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

Education and Jobs (2009-2018)

The past decade has seen an increase in less-educated adults: 18 percent in this quintile do not have a high school diploma, up from 14 percent. Moreover, fully half of working-age adults (25 to 64) without a post-secondary degree in Cambridge live in this quintile, up from 35 percent. In 2009, the largest share of working-aged adults in this quintile worked in education; now the dominant occupations are health care support and food service. Adults have the highest unemployment and the lowest labor-force participation rates. A full 54.5 percent are out of the labor force altogether.

Educational Attainment

More than half of adults lack a bachelor’s degree

Infographic: From 2009 to 2018 high school or less went from 14% to 18%, bachelor's degree or higher went from 41% to 45%.

Top Occupations

Core of frontline and essential service workers

Infographic: In 2009 21% education, 10% office & admin, 9% innovation. In 2018 11% health care support, 10% office & admin, 9% food service.

Labor Force Participation

Fewer adults in the labor force

Infographic: From 2009 to 2018 employed went from 40% to 37%, unemployed went from 9% to 8%, not in the labor force went from 51% to 54.5%.

Sources: 2005–2009 and 2014–2018 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

We have adjusted the standard naming conventions established by the U.S. Census Bureau in the following ways: “Hispanic/Latino” ethnicity is referred to as “Latinx”; “Black” refers to “Black/African American”; “Asian” includes “Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander”; “Multiracial” refers to “Two or More”; and “Another race/AIAN” includes “Some Other” and American Indian/Alaska Native.” For more about our terminology on race and ethnicity »