Highlighting successes AND obstacles connected to upward mobility, the Index measures economic, educational, health and civic opportunity at state and county levels for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It uniquely combines data with other indicators to help policymakers and community leaders identify challenges and solutions. Explore the data and share Index Scores with your community.
The most commonly discussed measures of economic strength and security are the Dow Jones Industrial Average, gross domestic product, unemployment and the poverty rate. These measures are limited and do not provide communities the comprehensive information they need to understand the progress they can make to boost economic mobility for Americans.
Opportunity Nation is a bipartisan, national coalition of more than 350 businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and community leaders working to expand economic opportunity for all Americans, no matter where they were born. Opportunity Nation seeks to close the opportunity gap by amplifying the work of its coalition members, advocating policy and private sector actions and releasing the annual Opportunity Index.
Child Trends is the nation’s leading nonprofit research organization focused exclusively on improving the lives and prospects of children, youth, and their families. For 37 years, decision makers have relied on their rigorous research, unbiased analyses, and clear communications to improve public policies and interventions that serve children and families.
Opportunity can be measured and defined in many ways. The Opportunity Index measures conditions present in different communities. We include indicators at the community level that can be changed to expand or restrict economic health and mobility. The Opportunity Index does not measure individual traits, although these factors do matter. For example, we can’t pick our ethnicity, the family we are born into, or our IQ. Though we did include demographic information for the first time this year, these factors are not included in any Index measurements. The Index prompts questions such as, “are there jobs available that pay family-sustaining wages?” “What percentage of 3- and 4- year olds are enrolled in preschool?” “How does health affect opportunity?”
Much of the indicator data used to compile numerical state scores and county grades A-F is gathered at both the state and county levels. By offering detailed information at both the state and county levels, policymakers, elected officials, community members and foundations get a big-picture view as well as a more localized perspective on the conditions that expand or constrict opportunity where they live.
Opportunity Nation recognizes that opportunity varies from city to city and town to town, and in many cases, even neighborhood to neighborhood. Several of the Opportunity Index indicators we use are only available at the state and county levels.
The places where people live are pivotal to the opportunities open to them. Neighborhoods and regions matter for employment, education, housing quality, law enforcement and public safety, community organizations and political processes. Some communities have characteristics that open many doors of opportunity for their residents; others do not. The Opportunity Index measures four dimensions: economic, educational, health and community indicators, to produce an overall opportunity score for all 50 U.S. states plus Washington, DC. The Index is also used to grade over 2,000 counties.
One challenge in creating a composite index is the temptation to include every data point possible. The disadvantages of this are two-fold: 1. larger indexes become difficult to use as an advocacy tool because they are too complex to explain and; 2. Often the same important goal is calculated through multiple measures. We want to ensure that the Opportunity Index is both broad and encompassing while also being useful as a tool to create community change.