-By John Lynds
East Boston’s population grew by 5.5 percent since 2000 and has officially become a minority majority neighborhood according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Department.
As of 2010 the population of Eastie had grown to 40,508 residents compared to when 38,413 resident lived here a decade ago.
But what surprised some is the dramatic drop in white Non-Hispanic residents living in the neighborhood.
In 2000 19,078 white residents (49.7 percent of the total population) lived in Eastie. That number has dropped to 15,051 or 37 percent while the Latino population grew from 14,990, or 39 percent to 21,419 or 52.9 percent.
Some suggested that the promise of waterfront development that has yet to materialize and underperforming schools as key reasons so many white residents have left Eastie over the past decade.
“Everyone in this neighborhood gets along,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “Since the influx of Latino residents began in the community in the 1990s everyone coexisted peacefully so I don’t think it is a racial thing but an educational one.”
LaMattina said he has seen many non-Latinos with the means to move out of the neighborhood do so once their children reach school age but would have no problem sending their child to a diverse school if it performed well–which many non-Latino parents do today.
“We have a handful of very good schools that every parent wants their children to attend,” said LaMattina. “The problem is when they don’t get their first of second pick they are gone from the neighborhood so improving education for everyone is a must.”
LaMattina said many non-Latino parents are looking at the Bradley, O’Donnell or the Adams as first choice schools and when that does not happen they begin to weigh their options.
“Some non-Latino parents that stay send their kids to private school when they don’t get into the public school of their choice and the ones that leave figure if I’m going to pay $5000 a year on a private education I may as well move to a suburb, put that money towards a mortgage and send my kid(s) to a better public school,” said LaMattina. “I truly believe a majority of the residents that have left East Boston since 2000 did so based on education and not because they had no love for East Boston.”
LaMattina pointed to the neighborhood’s parks, cultural diversity and future waterfront development as reasons many non-Latinos are staying and banking on a community-wide renaissance. He also said that the neighborhood’s affordability is a reason more Latinos have moved in as well as young professionals seeking cheap rent close to work in Downtown Boston.
“It’s a nicer place to live then it was in the 1970s,” said LaMattina. “When I was growing up here we didn’t have this beautiful park system, diverse restaurants and shops and crime was a lot worse 30 years ago then it is now.”
In 1980, Eastie was 96 percent white, mostly Italian, with only 3 percent of its residents being Latino. In 1990, 76 percent were white while the Latino population increased to 18 percent.
“The neighborhood’s transformation from a predominately Italian neighborhood to a culturally diverse one is great and attracts many people here but it is too bad that many families that have lived here for generations and would continue to live here for future generations are leaving because they want better education,” LaMattina said.