Child Opportunity Index

This Valuable Data Tool Informs Policies that Shape Child Opportunity

Jan 25, 2022, 11:00 AM, Posted by Dolores Acevedo-Garcia

Millions of children live in neighborhoods with limited access to safe housing, green space, or good schools. Data can inform efforts by local leaders to build a brighter, more equitable future for all children.

The pandemic has underscored how profoundly factors like where we live, our income, the kind of job we have, and our race and ethnicity affect our health, well-being, and ability to prosper. Some families and children in the United States have had the resources to weather this storm. But far too many have struggled to meet their basic needs. A poll from late 2021 found that about half of households with children had no savings to fall back on. Significantly more Black and Latino households with children and households with incomes below $50,000 reported not having this buffer.

These are not individual failures. They are societal and systemic—stemming from the pervasive and persistent harm caused by long-standing racism, redlining, and segregation. They affect immigrant families, too, who have trouble accessing social safety net programs, even if they are U.S. citizens.

To advance equity for all, we must address child poverty, unequal access to education and healthcare, and environmental conditions for what they are—structural and systemic in nature. Change can start in your backyard.

Mapping Opportunity With the Child Opportunity Index

As a researcher who has studied the effects of residential segregation, redlining, and poverty for more than 20 years, I know that data is essential to helping us understand what we can do to build a better future for our youngest generation. In January 2020, my team and I updated the Child Opportunity Index (the Index) to help researchers, city planners, community leaders, and others identify and address inequities in their metros. It measures access to factors that affect children’s health and well-being, from safe housing to green spaces to good schools, at the census tract level.

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