May 14, 2024 - News

Austin's child opportunity gap

2024-04-11-child-opportunity-index-Austin
Data: Brandeis University; Map: Jared Whalen and Alice Feng/Axios

A new map throws into relief Austin's child opportunity gap — or how children in some neighborhoods are less likely to graduate high school than peers living just a couple of miles away.

Why it matters: Children who grow up in high-opportunity neighborhoods tend to be healthier, have higher incomes in adulthood and even typically live longer, per the Child Opportunity Index 3.0.

The big picture: The index measures social and environmental factors such as school quality, parent employment levels, neighborhood income, park access and air pollution.

  • Austin has a child opportunity gap of 73 — significant but not as wide as in San Antonio, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area — meaning children living just a few miles apart may experience vastly different opportunities.

State of play: Racist housing policies, redlining and segregation have historically kept people of color confined to low-income neighborhoods without the opportunity to move out.

By the numbers: 36% of Hispanic kids, 29% of Black children and 7% of white kids live in neighborhoods in greater Austin with very low opportunities.

  • Inversely, 31% of white kids, 8% of Hispanic children and 7% of Black kids live in areas with very high opportunity.

Zoom in: Bouldin Creek received a Child Opportunity Score of 67, lower than Rollingwood's perfect score of 100, but significantly higher than Rosewood, to the east of I-35, which scored only an 8.

  • The higher the child opportunity score — as opposed to the child opportunity gap rating — the greater the opportunities for children to prosper.

Flashback: Voters approved a $350 million housing bond in 2022 — the largest bond in city history — to help homeowners fix their homes as well as help the city pay for land purchases and home construction.

Austin City Council members in August approved a second round of basic guaranteed income grants of $1,000 a month for at least 85 families for 2024-2025.

  • The goal is to help lift families out of poverty.

The bottom line: "The differences in neighborhood opportunity are so profound that it is as if children in the United States are growing up not in one country, but in five different nations," the report says.

Go deeper: Look up your neighborhood

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