Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

The New Bostonians: How Immigrants have Transformed Boston since the 1960s

boisi center for religion and american public life

Marilynn Johnson came to the Boisi Center on September 21st, 2016 to speak about her recent book, The New Bostonians: How Immigrants Have Transformed the Metro Area since the 1960s. The book was released on the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Immigration Act, which caused an unexpected and staggering change in immigration patterns into the United States and Boston. Johnson argued that these new immigrants largely drove Boston’s economic and physical turnaround in the late 20th century.

The talk began with a history of immigration in Boston, which is now a majority-minority city. Boston has always been a portal for immigrants because of preexisting ties and family connections, and has witnessed many different waves in its lifetime. From 1820 to 1920, families and workers from Ireland, Italy, China, Russia, and Canada dominated immigration into Boston.  From 1965 onward, more immigrants have come from Latin American, Central American, and Asian countries.

There are many positive and lasting effects of the New Bostonians; they have revitalized neighborhoods, stimulated local economies, and become politically involved. Immigrants have contributed both low-skill, low-knowledge workers and highly skilled, well-educated thinkers. Immigration and immigrants have sustained the city’s population growth in recent years.  The immigrants of this new era have also encountered many problems in Boston: dislocation from a rising cost of living, income inequality, gentrification, nativism, racism, and discrimination.

Johnson has continued to expand her research on Boston’s history as a hub of immigration online at