May 13, 2024 - News

Where Indianapolis kids have the most — and least — opportunity

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

Nearly a third of Indianapolis-area children are living in neighborhoods that have limited conditions and resources for healthy child development.

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.

How it works: The 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 to 100 to each census tract, with 1 representing the least childhood opportunity and 100 the most.

By the numbers: Indianapolis got an overall child opportunity score of 61, three points higher than the median score for the 100 largest metros.

  • The study found that 33% of children in Indianapolis are living in very low or low-opportunity neighborhoods.
  • 50% of Indy kids are in very high or high-opportunity neighborhoods.
  • 17% of children are in areas of moderate opportunity.

Breaking it down: Neighborhoods in areas like Meridian Hills, Rocky Ripple and the Old Northside all have a relatively high opportunity index, while neighborhoods like Englewood, Venerable Flackville and the Old Southside dip into very low territory.

  • Look up your neighborhood here.

Zoom out: The highest opportunity score in the nation was in Bridgeport, Connecticut (88) and the lowest was in McAllen, Texas (6).

The big picture: 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.

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

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.

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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