A Growing Gap
The gap between Brookline residents who are living comfortably and those who struggle financially is growing.
Today, 13.2% of Brookline residents live at or below the federal poverty level.
An alarming 29.1% of residents live in households below the 300% poverty threshold, a marker of significant economic insecurity.
Meanwhile, Brookline’s top earners are doing better than ever, pushing the town’s average household income up to $154,537 in 2010.
Understanding Brookline Poverty
Poverty cuts across all age and demographic groups in Brookline with some more affected than others.
Poverty varies by gender: 68.1% of those living in poverty are girls and women.
It varies by race: 19.4% of Latino, 13.5% of Asian, 13.1% of black and 11.6% of white residents have income at or below poverty.
It varies by education level: 6.9% of adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree live in poverty, compared with 25.8% of adults without a high school diploma.
It varies by geography and household type: Poverty households more highly concentrated in the northeast areas of the town and among single people and non-families.
Disabled residents are disproportionately affected too: Approximately a third (32.9%) of adults reporting disabilities have income at or below the poverty threshold.
Rising Costs and Need
Across the state and country, wages have not kept pace with inflation for large segments of the population, making it harder to make ends meet. Brookline’s high cost of housing contributes to the strain, as do the steadily rising costs of childcare and health care. Meanwhile, federal and state assistance programs, intended as a safety net for low-income individuals and families, have not kept pace with inflation.
Boston-based Crittenton Women’s Union estimates the true cost of living for Norfolk County to be $76,152 per year for a two-parent family with one pre-school age child and one school-age child, more than three times the official poverty rate.
Many Brookline residents are grappling with serious crises, including domestic violence, homelessness, and mental illness that make stability even harder to achieve. Non-profit leaders in Brookline note a need for holistic services to address increasingly complex challenges.