Build a better Brookline.

Brookline has the potential to be a community in which every neighbor has the supports and opportunities needed to thrive. While many impressive efforts are underway to address poverty in Brookline, there is more we can do. The following recommendations draw on the Foundation’s research and interviews with town leaders and nonprofit staff.


Changing Needs


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.

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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.

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To see more research like this, please download our two Understanding Brookline reports. 


Ideas for Action


Brookline has the potential to be a community in which every neighbor has the supports and opportunities needed to thrive. While many impressive efforts are underway to address poverty in Brookline, there is more we can do. The following recommendations draw on BCF’s research and interviews with town leaders and nonprofit staff.

Recommendation 1: Expand emergency supports to meet more short-term needs. 

  • Expand summer food resources for children who participate in free and reduced-cost meal programs during the school year.

  • Address barriers to emergency assistance, including language, transportation and stigma.

  • Develop a one-stop approach to needs assessment and program enrollment.

  • Assist eligible residents to enroll in state and federal assistance programs.

  • Raise awareness about local programs that reduce financial hardship.

Recommendation 2: Create more pathways out of poverty.

  • Expand adult education, job training and job readiness programming.

  • Develop more programs that empower low-income residents to reach personal and financial goals.

  • Increase wraparound case management services, so residents can access the range of supports they need.

  • Focus on educational equity from an early age, with quality programs that improve the long-term prospects of all Brookline children.

Recommendation 3: Tackle systemic barriers to economic sufficiency.

  • Invest in significant expansion of affordable housing.

  • Ensure that all residents have access to affordable mental and physical healthcare.

  • Ensure all individuals and families can access healthy, affordable food.

  • Foster public dialogue and take action to address discrimination that limits opportunities for individuals based on gender, race, socioeconomic background, disability, age, sexual orientation and other factors.

Help Move Brookline Forward

BCF’s three-year Brookline Forward campaign is deepening our impact in areas of pressing need, including local efforts to reduce and alleviate local poverty.

A gift to Brookline Forward will:

  • provide critical assistance to neighbors in need

  • create new pathways out of poverty

  • expand quality programming for youth beyond school hours

Out-of-School Time in Brookline

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The Brookline Community Foundation’s focus on expanding opportunities for youth and history of funding out-of-school time (OST) programming and capacity building for providers is part of the Foundation’s commitment to advancing the community’s understanding of and response to the critical role that OST experiences play for children and families in Brookline.

We are pleased to share this report by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST). an outgrowth of a multi-year effort with many community stakeholders, which paints a fuller picture of Brookline’s current-out-of school time landscape and suggests concrete steps we can take to improve access for all.  

We would love to keep this important conversation going as we work as a community to build a better Brookline. Please read the report and summary brief, and share your feedback via the google form link.

NIOST Report: Advancing Access to Quality Out-of- School Time in Brookline

Report Feedback Form

BCF 2019 Understanding Brookline Summary Brief