Exploring the impact of student population density on neighborhood character.

With a full 34% of its population between the ages of 20 and 34, Boston has the highest concentration of millennials among the 25 largest U.S. cities. From that, the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree or higher grew from 52% in 2000 to 65% in 2015.

There is no doubt that Boston’s world-renowned colleges and universities provide the City and region with unparalleled cultural resources, a thriving economic engine, and a talented workforce at the forefront of global innovation. But the 147,000+ students enrolled in Boston-based undergraduate and graduate degree programs place enormous strain on the City’s residential housing market. Thus, as a significant population group, millennial students become an indispensable group to help explore the relationship between students and the city in which they live.

To further understand the interaction between the student population and their living environment, we put forward three questions:

  1. Does the student residential area show a concentrated distribution? If so, where are they concentrated? If not, what is the distribution pattern of the student population in this area?
  2. Can we categorize neighborhood typologies based on demographic density?
  3. Can we observe urban form through a new lens by using population density associated with other concepts of urban density?

Based on our research we found that neighborhoods across Boston fall into three different housing density typologies that start to define the character of the living conditions.

The graphs illustrate these three housing density typologies as bi-variate distributions of family housing density (y-axis) and student housing density (x-axis). The hexagonal “bins” are colored based on the number of neighborhood parcels that fall within that bin’s density coordinates. Darker pink cells indicated more parcels.

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