How Boston Shapes City Residents

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Emily Badger at The Atlantic Cities digs into a new study that shows that Boston has a culture that’s quite distinct from San Francisco. Surprise, surprise. The study, called “The Cultural Construction of Self and Well-Being: A Tale of Two Cities,” was conducted by researchers at Berkeley, Stanford, and the University of Georgia, and examined everything from newspaper headlines to university admissions materials to find examples of how our history impacts today’s culture. San Francisco and Boston were selected because they share some key characteristics while being quite different:

“Boston and San Francisco are in many ways alike: They’re both liberal-leaning, highly educated waterfront towns with an emphasis on eds, meds, and venture capital. But they have dramatically different histories. Boston was born as a Puritan colony, San Francisco as a get-rich Gold Rush town.”

The results? The researchers found that residents of Boston are far more tradition-bound, while San Francisco’s are more free-wheeling:

“In surveys conducted as part of this study, people in Boston were more likely to say they felt there were clear expectations for how people should behave in their city. Conversely, people in San Francisco said they felt where they lived that people had the freedom to go their own way. In Boston, peoples’ self-satisfaction seemed to be tied to education, finances and community (all things that also matter to other people). In San Francisco this was less the case, with people less bound by concerns over status and social norms.”

Badger’s piece is worth reading in its entirety, but before you go, a couple of thoughts: First, the age-old joke is that Boston and New England are buttoned-up and cold, but our focus on education and community isn’t a bad thing: Those two elements are essential to a functioning city. And second, as for San Francisco not being as concerned by status: Really?! Just because they’re wearing hoodies and Chuck Taylors doesn’t mean that the city—especially the tech industry—isn’t obsessed with money and IPOs.