2011 Opportunity Index
Fundamental to the idea of opportunity is the notion that the community into which you are born does not determine your life chances. Yet in America today, too often it does. Where across the nation are conditions for economic opportunity and upward mobility strongest? Where are they most lacking?
To answer this question, the American Human Development Project was commissioned by the not-for-profit Opportunity Nation to create an index to measure community opportunity. Focusing on three main dimensions, the Opportunity Index provides rankings of states and counties, and is the centerpiece of a nationwide campaign to refocus priorities on access to opportunity for all Americans. The Opportunity Index was released at a national summit on November 4, 2011.
The Opportunity Index reveals some interesting new facts:
- The fifteen highest scoring states are fairly evenly distributed across the nation. Five are from the Northeast, five are from the Midwest, three are in the South Atlantic region, and 2 are Western states.
- Of the lowest-scoring 15 states, 12 are located in America’s South. The remaining three are Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.
- Income is surprisingly not the strongest indicator of opportunity. Nevada has higher than average median household income, but ranks last in the nation in opportunity due to low scores in education, community dimensions;
- Low opportunity states tend to have higher rates of negative social outcomes, including the rate of births to teenage girls, the child poverty rate, and the incarceration rate.
- States with high opportunity had far fewer residents with damaging health risk factors: smoking, obesity, and low birthweight infants.
The Opportunity Index is designed to empower community leaders, engaged citizens, and elected officials at all levels to take a serious look at the opportunity they are providing to those living in their areas. The Index will be issued annually, giving leaders a way to track progress and measure the effectiveness of their efforts.
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