In a city still packing a wicked-hard edge, an old maxim lives on: "Boston is about sports, politics and revenge." From the clout of its labor unions to the grit of its Red Sox, Beantown remains synonymous with working class.
And the locals like it that way.
"Whatever your ethnic tribe, race, or class, people here embrace the notion that Boston is a tough town. It has a certain romanticism," said Thomas Whalen, associate professor of social sciences at Boston University. "You hear it when the Celtics meet the Lakers. Boston revels in the fact that we're not like the people in 'La La Land,' that our team is blue collar."
But Whalen sees the irony in that brawny civic pride. With an economic base bolstered by medical hubs, biotech companies and universities, today's Boston owns a distinctly white-collar look. Los Angeles, conversely, is a working-class epicenter: Its 362,700 manufacturing jobs lead all other cities, according to Michael Shires, associate professor of public policy at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
As factory jobs continue to vanish, however, and the tech sector surges, many historically industrial towns are fading from blue to white collar—or, maybe more appropriately, to no collar—while scattered municipalities with seemingly white-collar auras are quietly clinging to working-class values.
Consider San Jose, Calif., home to eBay and Cisco Systems, a dot-com and Silicon Valley powerhouse. Yet 22.6 percent of the city's workforce is composed of blue-collar jobs: production, transportation, construction, installation and maintenance, according to Census figures. That means San Jose possesses a higher share of manual laborers than two cities long known for their trains and smokestacks: Philadelphia (21.8 percent) and Pittsburgh (16.5 percent).