The pandemic altered our lives in 2020, but the Cambridge we are waking up to today has been in the making for many years. Income inequality, the loss of the middle class, the closing of small businesses, ongoing gentrification, escalating housing costs, and deep racial disparities in education, wealth, and access to opportunity — these trends have been accelerating at least since the 2008 recession. They are among the challenges confronting Cambridge and other innovation cities across the country.
Looking back at the past decade, we can see that innovation-driven growth and prosperity obscured cracks in our civic foundation that threaten the very things that make Cambridge special — its diversity of people, households, and businesses; its range of races, religions, ethnicities, incomes, and ideas; and the sense of community that comes from being welcoming and accessible to all.
This report places Cambridge in the context of other innovation cities and provides data on the impacts of its economic success on our community. While the findings are not surprising, the report looks at the data in a new way, considering Cambridge in depth across five income segments, or quintiles, to understand the divergent lives of individuals within those segments. Further research is required to work out the full implications of the data presented here, but these numbers can act as a starting point for a nuanced conversation.
We seek a deep, well-informed dialogue leading to a civic agenda that brings together all sectors of the city — community leaders, CEOs, employees, philanthropists, nonprofit and faith leaders, universities, artists, local government, and members of the community. Building on the solid data assembled here, the city’s Envision Cambridge planning process, and the wise counsel of fellow Cantabrigians, we hope to build a community where innovation thrives, opportunity abounds, and, most importantly, prosperity is shared.