Apr 17, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Where kids have the most — and least — opportunity

Illustration of crayons atop a simple map of a town

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

A new analysis finds significant gaps in childhood opportunity both between different metro areas as well as within them.

Why it matters: Childhood opportunity has significant influence throughout a person's life, factoring into educational and career progress, life expectancy and more.

How it works: The Child Opportunity Index 3.0, from the DiversityDataKids.org project at Brandeis University, seeks to quantify the opportunity afforded to each child based on several factors tied to where they live, including education, health, environment, as well as socioeconomics.

  • Based on those factors, the report assigns a score of 1–100 to each census tract, with 1 representing the least childhood opportunity and 100 the most.

Zoom in: Bridgeport, Connecticut (88); San Jose, California (87); and Boston (86) have the highest overall "Opportunity Score" among the country's 100 biggest metros.

  • McAllen, Texas (6); Brownsville, Texas (9); and Visalia, California (13) have the lowest.

Between the lines: Some cities have large scoring gaps within themselves — essentially a reflection of internal inequities.

  • Milwaukee (a 90-point gap), Cleveland (88) and Detroit (88), for example, have the biggest gaps between their high- and low-scoring neighborhoods.
  • Racial chasms prevail nationwide, too, with Black and Hispanic children typically living in relatively lower-opportunity neighborhoods in comparison with white and Asian children.

What they're saying: "These inequities ... are neither natural nor random," Brandeis professor and report author Dolores Acevedo-Garcia said in a statement.

  • "They're driven by systemic inequities such as high segregation and policies that enable opportunity hoarding."

What's next: The researchers recommend several policy measures to improve childhood opportunity, including tackling child poverty, rethinking neighborhood zoning rules with equity in mind, and opening access to better schools for children outside their immediate neighborhoods.

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