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Abstract

Socioeconomic trends for a primarily black and poor urban area, Roxbury, Massachusetts, are compared to those of the surrounding city of Boston and the Boston Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA) for the period 1960 to 1985. Patterns in income, poverty, labor force participation, educational attainment, and racial composition are examined for each of the three areas. The chief purpose of the analysis is to determine the nature of gaps between Roxbury residents and the rest of the metropolitan area as well as the ways in which such gaps have changed over time.

The findings indicate that, despite growth in income, labor force participation, and educational achievement and the presence of a black middle class, Roxbury residents on the whole have tended to fall further behind residents in the city and the SMSA. The income gap in particular has widened substantially, and the incidence of poverty remains at an extremely high level. There is also evidence of an underclass. Structural explanations are offered for the existence of and increase in poverty, and policy implications are explored.

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