Brockton, MA

In this ethnographic project and new book project, Sharon is studying the changing city of Brockton, a post-industrial city 25 miles south of Boston. Over the last two decades, this city has become especially attractive to Black first-time homebuyers, many of whom became Brockton homeowners after renting in Southern Boston neighborhoods. In 2017, one in five mortgages extended to Black households across Massachusetts were in Brockton, even as this city only accounted for 1.7% of State-wide loans. That year, twice as many Black households bought houses in Brockton as in Boston, a city seven times its size. Brockton had taken over Boston’s historical place in Massachusetts as the top destination for Black homebuyers, who included African-Americans, Cape Verdeans, Haitians, as well as other Caribbean and African groups. In 2019, a majority of Brockton’s residents identified as Black for the first time: Brockton became New England’s first Black city.

Sharon draws on in-depth interviews, ethnography, and archival and quantitative work, to better understand these historical shifts. She answers questions such as: Why were so many Black homebuyers in metro Boston buying in Brockton? What financial and practical challenges were first-time homeowners of different groups facing? How did residents who used to rent in Southern Boston, experience the transition to owning in Brockton?  This project will help sociologists and policy makers better understand key metropolitan changes – of gentrification, reinvestments in cities on the metropolitan fringe, and new forms of racial and ethnic inequality that may emerge as a result – as well as how individuals experience this changing urban landscape. 

This project is supported by a Research Partnership grant of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Media and research blogs:

Benjamin Berke, The Enterprise, April 2020, Harvard Researcher Planning Book on Changing Demographics of Brockton

Sharon Cornelissen and Alex Hermann. 2020. COVID-19 and Vulnerable Homeowners: National Trends and Voices from Brockton, Massachusetts 

Sharon Cornelissen and Alex Hermann. 2020. A Triple Pandemic? The Economic Impacts of COVID-19 Disproportionally Affect Black and Hispanic Households.

Brockton city hall