May 7, 2024 - News

Analyzing Houston's child opportunity gap

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

The Houston area has one of the widest child opportunity gaps in the country, meaning children in some neighborhoods are less likely to graduate high school than their peers living just across the highway.

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.

  • High-opportunity neighborhoods nationwide tend to be segregated, with 67% of white and Asian children living there.
  • The majority of Black (61%) and Hispanic (58%) kids live in low-opportunity neighborhoods, per the report, by diversitydatakids.org at Brandeis University.

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

Zoom in: Houston overall got an 85 opportunity gap score, among the 10 worst in the country, highlighting how segregated the metro's neighborhoods are.

  • The lowest opportunity gap score was 32 in Provo, Utah.

The intrigue: Inside the Beltway, a familiar shape emerges when plotting the Houston region's childhood opportunity index: the Houston Arrow, where a stark contrast in schoolchildren's opportunity makes the infamous arrow that defines various forms of inequity in Houston.

  • At the tip of the arrow north of downtown, kids in Near Northside have very low opportunity, while kids in the Heights — just on the other side of Interstate 45 — have very high opportunity, the data found.

Neighborhoods in Kingwood, The Woodlands, Katy and Sugar Land all have a relatively high opportunity index, while others in Pasadena, Baytown and Rosenberg have low indexes.

  • Look up your neighborhood here.

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.

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