Closing the Opportunity Divide in Boston

Boston lives up to its reputation as an educated city. Massachusetts is the most educated state in the country, with 42.7% of adults having at least a bachelor’s degree, which is about 1.4 times the rate in the U.S. Massachusetts also has the highest overall K-12 student achievement with more than half of fourth and eighth graders being proficient in math, according to the latest NAEP scores.

Given this impressive data, it is no surprise that Boston is ranked as one of the world’s most economically powerful cities. What is lesser known is that Boston is one of the nation’s top cities for income inequality. In 2016, households in Boston’s 95th income percentile made almost 15 times more than what those in the city’s 20th percentile did. While opportunity is plentiful, a wedge exists between those who have access to it and those who do not. This wedge is driven deeper as Boston continues to grow. 

Millions of young adults in Boston have the drive and aptitude to fill a valuable role at a company, but are unable to get a foot in the door. At the same time, despite Boston’s educated workforce, corporations are struggling to fill roles with competent individuals and retain quality employees. 

To close the opportunity divide, cities like Boston are looking to strategic partnerships between employers and workforce and talent development programs to connect underserved youth with the work-based learning experiences that exist in their own community and help equip them with the skills and real-world experience they need to succeed in them. 

By connecting young adults who are highly motivated but lack opportunities to enter the mainstream economy with companies who are struggling to fill positions, cities across the country can fill jobs and diversify their talent pipelines. 

Telling Boston’s Story

Boston is the most recent city featured on, a website that aims to highlight how business leaders, employers, parents, and community leaders come together to play critical roles in helping students gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. 

In Boston, the city, education, and local businesses, such as Wayfair, BNY Mellon, and others, are brought together by Year Up Boston, a one-year intensive training program that connects underserved youth with skills development and real-world experience through corporate internships. Often, these internships, apprenticeships, and other earn and learn opportunities are the foot in the door to full-time employment that students need. 

Boston students who graduate from the program can earn an average starting salary of $38,000 a year, which is nearly double the city’s minimum wage, with a potential salary increase of more than 70 percent for those who held minimum wage jobs before Year Up. 

Opportunities like those provided by organizations like Year Up are a solid investment. These work-based learning experiences where education, community, and business come together deliver students with a clear path and a purpose for their career and further education.