Apr 25, 2024 - News

Columbus has a child opportunity gap

Data: Brandeis University; Map: Jared Whalen and Alice Feng/Axios

Columbus touts itself as "America's Opportunity City," but is home to one of the nation's widest gulfs of haves and have-nots between neighborhoods, per a new analysis of childhood opportunity.

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, 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 and 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: The analysis finds Columbus has the fifth-widest gap between high and low opportunity neighborhoods, behind Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit and Philadelphia.

Take Grandview Heights, a predominantly white neighborhood that ranks "very high" for childhood opportunity, boasting high education attainment, few vacant buildings and higher than average incomes, among an array of other factors.

  • Across the river, Franklinton, a generally more diverse neighborhood, is scored "very low" for childhood opportunity. The study flags limited educational resources, more vacant houses than average and low income per capita.

What they're saying: The study's authors blame racial and ethnic inequality for the disparities in opportunity, which they argue is perpetuated by ongoing residential segregation.

  • "It is clear that we as a nation must reduce segregation to decrease inequities in opportunity that hurt our children," they write.

What's next: Researchers recommended 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.

Go deeper: Researchers at Ohio State University tracked the movement of 1,405 teenagers in Columbus for a study released last year.

  • They found Black teens living in segregated neighborhoods spent a significant amount of their time in predomentantly white neighborhoods, a phenomenon they call "compelled mobility."
  • "Black youth had to leave their neighborhoods … to find better-resourced schools, stores and other organizations that often weren't available where they lived," per OSU professor Christopher Browning.
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