Why Boston?

October 11th, 2020
boston, housing
In college we had a set of signs we posted for common concepts. You might point at the sign that said "lexical semantics" as convenient way to indicate that a discussion had fallen into that particular trap, and we had signs for many circumstances. The sign with the largest impact, however, was "move to Boston". Twelve years later it's worked surprisingly well, and ~85% of my friend group is now here.

I'm also seeing a lot of discussion among Bay Area friends about moving. With the pandemic, fire season, and high rents, it's not surprising! I wanted to expand on a comment I left about why I like Boston.

In no particular order:

  • Boston has a wide variety of industries, many of which are quite strong: it's one of the top cities for biotech, medicine, and education. This variety makes it easier to have friends in a range of fields, there's interesting cross pollination, and there's less risk that a bust in one industry will take the whole city down with it.

  • There are good programming jobs. Many companies have offices here to be more attractive to (especially MIT) students, and I feel like I have a lot of options. Pay is a bit below the Bay Area, but not by much.

  • Good options if you don't want to have a car. Many walkable areas, lots of bikes on the road and decent bike infrastructure, and good public transit (for the US).

  • Minimal natural disasters. Not an earthquake area, plenty of rainfall, easy to avoid flood zones, no wildfires. Hurricanes happen, though they pretty much are only an issue right on the water. Occasional blizzards.

  • Pretty good governance, as illustrated by the pandemic response. I live in Somerville, and we shut down more quickly and have opened up more slowly than most of the US. Masks have been mandatory since late April. School is and has been fully remote, but they're still distributing school lunches. They distributed laptops and hotspots to any families that needed them. Non-pandemic governance seems generally good as well.

  • Queer and poly friendly. For example, MA was the first state to allow same-sex marriage (2003) and Somerville was the first city in the country to issue polyamorous domestic partnership (2020).

  • There are a lot of multi-unit houses and large old houses that are suitable for use as group houses, for people that like that.

  • Good schools. MA is typically ranked top in the country for K-12.

  • Very close to a major international airport (BOS). And you can get there on public transit.

  • Good medical care. The craziness of the US health insurance system aside, Boston has some of the best hospitals in the country. If someone gets an unusual disease and needs specialist care, they can probably get it here.

  • The weather goes through proper seasons, with winters that are cold enough and summers that are warm enough to give real variety. Spring and fall are also really beautiful.

  • The traditional dance and music scene, when there's not a pandemic, is excellent.

  • While housing is some of the most expensive in the country, it's substantially cheaper than the Bay Area or NYC. A 2-bedroom within easy walking distance to the subway and a half hour commute to downtown was ~$2.8k/month pre-covid.

  • There's a nice continuum from relatively urban areas (which of the above is discussing) out into Western Mass / Southern VT / NH for people who want different tradeoffs around density/cost/closeness vs space/thrift/isolation.

The biggest downside by far is housing costs. Other downsides include darkness in winter, cold in winter if you don't like that, and that for many industries it is near the top but not the top.

(I also grew up in Boston, my family is still in the area, and I'm close with them. Even if Boston was substantially worse I would still consider living here for this sort of personal reasons. While I feel like the above is written fairly, I'm probably biased in Boston's favor.)

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