The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute works to unlock the economic potential of small to mid-size regional cities.

Leveraging MassINC’s research, polling, and policy team, the Institute strengthens connections across communities and helps Gateway City leaders develop and advance a shared policy agenda.

Research Reports

Articles from The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute

Gateway City leadership on criminal justice reform

The Gateway Cities Journal

Watching Gateway City leaders over the years, I’ve come to admire their work ethic. Whether it’s putting together complex redevelopment projects, fighting for school improvement, or closing holes in municipal budgets, they have a penchant for stepping up and solving difficult problems. As our latest research report shows, corrections reform is yet another issue calling

Connecting rail riders from the station to jobs in the suburbs

Can shuttle services give Gateway City residents access to more jobs?

As we described in a previous post, job growth outside of the Boston core has overwhelmingly occurred at highway interchanges with limited access to public transportation. This phenomenon is partially attributable to the MBTA commuter rail’s hub-and-spoke model. By design, the system operates with one-directional aim—funneling suburban residents to jobs in Boston and Cambridge. Increasingly,

Increasing access to economic opportunity with affordable transit

A growing number of transit agencies discount fares for low-income riders

Rising rents are pushing low-income transit-dependent households awy from strong public transit and out to Gateway Cities, where service is less frequent. These residents have just two costly options to get to back to better paying jobs in Boston: driving or taking the commuter rail. Compared to the subway, with its flat fare of $2.25

Policymaking by presumption

The Gateway Cities Journal

In 2002, Massachusetts voters went to the ballot box and passed an initiative requiring schools to deliver all instruction in English. While there wasn’t much evidence that this would improve learning, voters were still sold on the idea that professional educators didn’t know how to do their job; allowing students to learn math and other

Four things we learned about Gateway City travel this summer

Understanding mobility patterns

The Googles of this world have loads of travel data to understand mobility patterns at minute detail. While most researchers and planners never get a good look at these real-time data, we do have two interesting sources of information that can help us learn more about how people travel across the state. One resource is

Reading employer demand for transit in the job growth tea leaves

The picture we get is revealing

The best data we have to look at where jobs are growing over time come to us at the municipal level.* This isn’t great for getting a sense of whether employers are migrating to locations with strong transit service—ideally we’d have job counts for Census tracts or smaller geographies that represent actual station areas—but it’s

You win some, you lose some

The Gateway Cities Journal

In the toughest state budget since the Great Recession, Gateway City leaders coalesced around priorities and eked out a few victories. The workforce development line-items identified by the Gateway Cities legislative caucus early in the year fared particularly well. Connecting Activities, which supports work-based learning experiences for high school students, came out of conference with

Juicing regional economic development by improving labor mobility

A look at Gateway City residents earning the Boston wage premium

A startling percentage of households migrating from Boston to the Gateway Cities are low-income and transit-dependent. For these residents, finding living wage work may now hinge on whether they can make the commute back to Boston. Data from the American Community Survey show that Gateway City residents who are able to find and get to

The push and pull of transit in Boston and the Gateway Cities

A look at gentrification forces on transit-dependent households

The trend of low- and middle-income households being priced out of urban centers with robust public transit networks is a reality in major cities all over the country. Despite its ills, the MBTA system is exceptional, which means Boston is no exception. Migration data from the American Community Survey show that more than one-quarter of

Community Benefit Districts on the table for FY18

New designation would promote collaboration in downtowns, Main Streets

Representative Brendan Crighton and Senator Eileen Donoghue have filed an outside section of the FY18 Budget, currently in Conference Committee, that would create Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) as an alternative to Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) for communities across the Commonwealth. CBDs are designed to support downtowns, cultural districts, historic areas, and Main Streets that require

Press coverage

  • Is this the year Massachusetts will eliminate mandatory minimum sentences?

    Advocates for repeal say they are seeing more momentum and more political openness to the idea than ever before. But making changes will not be easy, with opposition from many of the state’s prosecutors. Democratic state senators have been leading the charge to end some mandatory minimums, but Democratic House leaders have been more reticent. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, has been noncommittal.

    “We’re starting to see a shift in political opinion that reflects public opinion,” said Ben Forman, research director of MassINC, a think tank that supports criminal justice reform.

    Read more…

  • Editorial: Cost of tough-on-crime policies do not add up

    Budgets, we’re told by politicians and policy-makers, reflect the priorities and values of the community.

    Want children educated? Fund education. Safe streets? Fund public safety. And so on.

    But lost in the discussion over our priorities and values is a question central to the efficacy of our government: Is money being spent in a way that achieves the desired results?

    It is in this light that we take note of a new study, “The Geography of Incarceration in a Gateway City,” prepared by MassINC and the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

    Read more…

  • Report: High incarceration rates raise crime in Worcester neighborhoods

    WORCESTER – The idea that too many people are given prison sentences instead of treatment for addictions or mental ailments is nothing new.

    But a new study released recently by an independent Boston think tank urging criminal justice reform uses Worcester’s neighborhoods to support that theory, mapping in detail where offenders live and suggesting that crime in some areas might actually be driven by high rates of imprisonment.

    “You would think that locking people up who are creating disorder is always beneficial, but if you’re putting a lot of people away for nonviolent offenses, it reduces the stigma attached to going to prison and makes it less of a deterrent,” Ben Forman, research director at MassINC, said in announcing the results of the Sept. 25 report.

    Titled “The Geography of Incarceration in a Gateway City,” the 18-page report confirms what many would suspect: The bulk of people placed behind bars live in rougher neighborhoods. But by presenting the data alongside other neighborhood measures – voting records and school discipline, chiefly – it suggests that poor neighborhoods may be caught in a cycle of crime driven, as opposed to relieved by, incarceration of law-breakers.

    Read more…

  • Ben Forman: Incarceration overuse can undermine state’s Gateway Cities

    BOSTON — Fear often trumps levelheaded reasoning when it comes to criminal justice policy in Massachusetts. With audience-hungry news broadcasts constantly fanning the flames, counterproductive laws have accumulated like weeds on a long neglected lot. This has repercussions for everyone, but the pain is especially sharp in Gateway Cities. If these communities are going to provide solid pathways to the American dream in a challenging economy, we must confront this reality.

    A new report from the nonpartisan think-tank MassINC demonstrates the extent to which the overuse of incarceration hurts Gateway Cities by mapping the Worcester County Sheriff’s intake data: On some Worcester streets, admissions to correctional facilities come from home after home; a downtown Worcester neighborhood lost one out of every 10 young men to incarceration between 2009 and 2015; within the span of a single year, another neighborhood saw 350 admissions to the county’s correctional facilities.

    Read more…

  • Prison pipeline can drain whole city

    This week, however, we were reminded by a MassInc report on the city that economic development must be intractably linked to social development, or the former will be harder to maintain.

    According to the report, “The Geography of Incarceration in a Gateway City,” high rates of incarceration can have a chilling impact on community and economic development in cities like Worcester.

    In addition to creating a climate for increased crime, high incarceration rates can lead to low school performance, behavioral problems among children, and long-term political and civil disengagement, the report noted.

    Meanwhile, communities with high incarceration rates generally nurture high levels of poverty, unemployment and racial segregation, according to the report.

    Read more…

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Why support massinc?

  • We enjoy what we do.

    Whether it’s planning events, conducting research, or analyzing the news, our team works on projects that we’re passionate about.
  • We develop leaders.

    Former MassINC employees have gone on to work at reputable organizations like Harvard University, Boston University, City Year, EnerNOC, and Governor Baker’s office.  
  • We stick with it.

    Our work on transformative development, which uses public and private funding for projects to revitalize an entire downtown or urban neighbor­hood, began as Policy Center research report in 2013. A year later, the state legislature passed a bill funding transformative development projects across Massachusetts.
  • We are nonpartisan.

    Our Board of Directors includes prominent Massachusetts Democrats and Republicans. We are interested people’s ideas, not which side of the aisle they sit on.
  • We have a complete toolbox.

    We aren’t just a think tank. We bring nonpartisan research, civic engagement, journalism, and independent polling together under one roof.
  • We have state-wide reach.

    We know that Beacon Hill isn’t the only place to make progress. We’re on the ground in cities across the state working with local leaders.
  • We have unique networks.

    We use our connections to bring together a cross-section of diverse leaders to solve problems. Our networks include mayors, economic development directors, superintendents, business people, newspaper editors, arts leaders, and regional transit officials.  

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  • MassINC is a key partner to the Boston Foundation, and all of us who are seeking to advance the regional conversation around economic opportunity and a strong quality of life for all.  MassINC's robust, nonpartisan research is exactly what our citizens and leaders need to make good decisions.

    Paul Grogan, President of The Boston Foundation

  • I watch my inbox for CommonWealth magazine’s Daily Download. I can count on the newsletter to tell me succinctly what’s happening in politics and public policy. The magazine itself always delivers in-depth news, analysis and commentary. It's simply outstanding, quality journalism. I am happy to support unbiased reporting through my participation in Citizens Circle.

    Helen Chin Schlichte
    Former Public Administrator; President Emeritus, South Cove Manor at Quincy Point

  • MassINC's long-term dedication to Gateway Cities makes them a valuable resource to all of our communities. They are a true thought partner. They go the distance to help others appreciate our unique opportunities, needs, and perspectives.

    Tim McGourthy Executive Director of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau

  • MassINC serves as a credible, thoughtful resource for all of us who are invested in the future of the Commonwealth. Its emphasis on careful analysis that is grounded in data, research, and polling makes an important contribution to and helps elevate the conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing the region.

    Trevor Pollack, Manager of Special Projects for the Barr Foundation

  • The potential of Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities is limitless. MassINC’s dedicated work in promoting these cities has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in their individual and collective success.

    Jay Ash
    Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and former chair of the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute

  • MassINC has always provided research showing the detrimental impact of the state’s unforgiving criminal justice system on our communities. Their polling confirmed that the public understood the need for change in our system. That criminal justice reform is at the forefront of bipartisan local and national debates today is in no small measure due to MassINC’s persistent and fair commitment to the issue.

    Juliette Kayyem Faculty Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Founder Kayyem Solutions LLC

  • Through my partnership with MassINC, the Building On What Works Coalition is working to unite a diverse collection of civic leaders around an urgent call to encourage the state to act on the progress that has been made ensuring all children in Massachusetts have a true chance to succeed in the state’s economy. MassINC’s research and commitment to data driven public policy are helping to give the children of Massachusetts a better education.

    Kim Driscoll Mayor of Salem

  • MassINC's work with the Gateway Cities is unmatched. As Eastern Bank strives to help businesses in these communities thrive, MassINC has been a tremendous partner, providing data-driven research and affirming that these cities are full of opportunities.

    Bob Rivers Eastern Bank President and COO

  • When MassINC speaks, it’s well worth listening. After all, the nonpartisan think tank has established itself as a thoughtful, careful, credible voice on public policy in Massachusetts.

    Scot Lehigh Boston Globe Op-Ed Columnist

  • Few organizations in the country have better understood the important role of governance reform and accountability in education policy and economic development than MassINC.

    Bruce Katz Vice President and Founding Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution

  • [MassINC's] understanding of the complexity of the challenges facing the state’s older cities, its belief in the opportunities that present themselves in those communities, and its advocacy of the role that public higher education can and should play in them, has added to the understanding that policy makers need to have as they move our state toward the future.

    Jean MacCormack

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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