Release of 2018 Opportunity Index Highlights Need for Action to Diminish Inequity
The 2018 Opportunity Index, released Thursday at an event hosted by the Forum for Youth Investment, found that the nation’s overall Opportunity Score has improved 1.2 percent since 2017, and 27 states and the District of Columbia scored above the national Opportunity Score.
The Opportunity Index is a dataset that looks at 20 indicators across four dimensions – economy, education, health and community – to better understand the conditions that affect opportunity in different communities across the country.
“You can’t change the odds if you don’t know what the odds are,” said Karen Pittman, co-founder, president and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment, highlighting how the data encourages the field to ask questions and provides the foundation for action.
“Where and when and how to engage should be driven by data,” added Stacey Magdaluyo, manager for responsible business leadership at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
While many of the numbers and conclusions from the data were highlighted throughout the event, speakers emphasized the importance of looking beyond the data and recognizing the individual stories behind the numbers.
“We can start in data, but what we’re really trying to do is find opportunities to lift up all communities,” said Michelle Massie, director of Opportunity Nation and strategic initiatives at the Forum for Youth Investment. The Opportunity Index is an annual report developed by Opportunity Nation, a campaign of the Forum for Youth Investment and Child Trends.
Some notable data points and findings from the research include:
- The 2018 U.S. average Opportunity Score is 53.1 out of 100, up 1.2 percent from 2017.
- The scores for economy, education and community all rose from 2017, but the score for health dropped to a three-year low.
- Income inequality grew more than 1 percent in almost a third of states from 2017 to 2018.
- On six of 12 indicators where data were disaggregated by race/ethnicity, white residents had the most favorable outcomes; Asian Americans fared the best on the other six.
This was the first year researchers broke down the data by race/ethnicity and gender, helping to foster greater discussion on how to broaden opportunities for disadvantaged communities.
Also, through Opportunity Nation’s collaboration with PwC, they are now able to share with counties how their opportunity scores compare with other counties in their state and with counties across the country that share similar demographics.
In addition to highlighting many of the bright spots and challenges in the data, speakers also suggested policy changes to expand opportunity.
“In under-resourced communities, [when you] look at students, they don’t lack the acumen. They lack the opportunities, resources and financial capital,” said James West, an alumnus of the Urban Alliance, a nonprofit organization that connects high school students with professional work experiences.
West said that in order to build opportunities in these communities, there needs to be an effort to build education systems on culturally relevant curriculums, as well as increase funding and research for programs that foster equitable access to opportunity.
In particular, Sarah Keh, vice president for corporate social responsibility at Prudential Financial, Inc., announced that her company is making a $180 million contribution to employment pathways for opportunity youth, or those who were previously referred to as “at risk” or “disconnected” youth.
“These are the young people who are the future of our workforce,” Keh said.
Others emphasized that creating opportunity means that individuals must achieve more than just “scraping by.”
“At the end of the day, opportunity is the chance to have experiences that change your life and allow you to flourish,” said Sam Beckwith, senior research analyst at Child Trends.
Selena Tan, program associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, closed the event with a call to action for attendees.
“[Let’s] imagine a future where investments don’t need to be made, because they already exist,” she said.
You can see the full data set and explore your community’s Opportunity Score at https://opportunityindex.org/.