Data & Scoring

The Opportunity Index is designed to provide a snapshot of what opportunity looks like at the state and county levels. The Index focuses on the conditions present in different communities and is designed to help localities connect economic, academic, health, civic and other factors that support increased opportunity and economic mobility.

The 2017 Opportunity Index provides Opportunity Scores for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and Opportunity Grades for 2,057 counties which contain 97 percent of the nation’s population. These notes provide the methodology for calculating the 2017 Opportunity Index.

To download a PDF of the full 2017 analysis and methodology or briefing book, visit the Resources Page.

Changes to the 2017 Opportunity Index
Since 2011, the Opportunity Index has been a valuable data resource for summarizing statistics on opportunity across three dimensions: Economy, Education and Community. The 2017 Opportunity Index includes a new Health dimension and the three existing dimensions were updated by adding new indicators and removing others for which data is no longer available. The four dimensions of opportunity in the 2017 Index are:

  • Economy
  • Education
  • Health
  • Community

Each dimension includes three to seven indicators—the specific measurements used to quantify opportunity.

One important use of the Opportunity Index is to track progress over time across indicators, dimensions and overall opportunity. However, updates to the 2017 Index make direct comparisons with previous years of the Index inadvisable. To allow for examination of recent trends, and to provide a check on the reliability of the new Index composition, we recalculated the 2016 Opportunity Index using the structure of the 2017 Index.

The following table shows the structure of the 2017 Opportunity Index.

New indicators or indicators with new data sources are presented in italics.

 

 DIMENSION

 

INDICATOR

 

DESCRIPTION

 

ECONOMY

Jobs

Unemployment rate (percentage of the population ages 16 and older who are not working but available for and seeking work)

Wages

Median household income (in 2010 dollars)

 

Poverty

Percentage of the population below the federal poverty level (the amount of pretax cash income considered adequate for an individual or family to meet basic needs)

 

Income Inequality

80/20 ratio (ratio of household income at the 80th percentile to that at the 20th percentile)

 

Access To
Banking Services

Number of banking institutions (commercial banks, savings institutions and credit unions) per 10,000 residents

 

Affordable
Housing

Percentage of households spending less than 30 percent of their income on housing-related costs

 

Broadband Internet Subscription

 

Percentage of households with subscriptions to broadband internet service

 

EDUCATION  

Preschool Enrollment

Percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds attending preschool

 

High School Graduation

On-time high school graduation rate (percentage of freshmen who graduate in four years)

 

Postsecondary Education

 

Percentage of adults ages 25 and older with an associate degree or higher

HEALTH

Low Birth Weight

Percentage of infants born weighing less than 5.5 pounds

 

Health Insurance Coverage

Percentage of the population (under age 65) without health insurance coverage

 

Deaths Related To Alcohol/Drug Use And Suicide

 

Deaths attributed to alcohol or drug poisoning, or suicide (age- adjusted rate per 100,000 population)

 

COMMUNITY   

Volunteering

Percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who reported they volunteered during the previous year [national and state-level only]

 

Voter
Registration

 

Percentage of adults ages 18 and older who are registered to vote [national and state-level only]

 

Youth Disconnection

Percentage of youth (ages 16–24) not in school and not working

 

Violent Crime

Incidents of violent crime reported to law enforcement agencies (per 100,000 population)

 

Access To Primary Health Care

Number of primary care physicians (per 100,000 population)

 

Access To
Healthy Food

Number of grocery stores and produce vendors (per 10,000 population)

 

Incarceration

Number of people incarcerated in jail or prison (per 100,000 population 18 and older) [national and state-level only]

 

 


Methodology
The Opportunity Index draws upon statistics from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Justice. Calculating Opportunity Scores for states and grades for counties entails three steps:

1. Rescaling indicators
2. Calculating dimension scores
3. Calculating Opportunity Scores and Grades

Rescaling Indicators
The diverse indicators that comprise the Opportunity Index include percentages, rates and dollar values. To include them in a composite measure such as the Opportunity Index, we transform each of these statistics to enable comparisons on a common scale. The Opportunity Index uses a simple rescaling procedure based on the minimum and maximum values obtained for each indicator.

Each state or county’s performance on an indicator is compared with the highest and lowest scores obtained on that indicator, excluding outliers (extreme values).

The indicators in the Opportunity Index vary in their directionality. For example, median household income is an indicator for which higher values are more desirable, but the unemployment rate is better when lower.

 

Calculating Dimension Scores
At the state level, the Opportunity Index is made up of 20 indicators across the four dimensions (Economy, Education, Health and Community). In each dimension, the rescaled values for indicators are averaged to create dimension-level Opportunity Scores, also ranging from 0 to 100. Because data for some indicators are not available at the county level, the county Opportunity Index is made up of 17 indicators. As with states, indicators in each dimension are averaged to create dimension-level Opportunity Scores ranging from 0 to 100.

Calculating Opportunity Scores and Grades
Each state also has an overall Opportunity Score that summarizes performance across the four Index dimensions. To calculate these, a state’s four dimension scores are averaged with equal weighting. Final Opportunity Scores are again represented as values from 0 to 100; these values are used to rank the 50 states and the District of Columbia. To create overall county Opportunity Scores, the four dimension scores are again averaged and weighted equally. Counties are also assigned Opportunity Grades that correspond to their scores, ranging from A+ to F.

In 2011, Opportunity Grade cut-off points were based on the distribution of raw, final numerical outcomes of the 2011 Opportunity Index for counties and county equivalents; groupings were done by standard deviations above or below the average. The same cut-off points were used to assign Opportunity Grades for the 2012 to 2016 indices, allowing comparison across years.

However, in 2017, it was necessary to recalculate the relationship between final numerical values and Opportunity Grade assignments because of the significant update to the dimensions and indicators comprising the Opportunity Index. New cut-off points for assigning grades were based on the distribution of numerical scores of the updated Opportunity Index in 2016 for counties and county equivalents. Grades in the 2017 Index were also assigned according to these new cut-off points. Thus, it is valid to compare county grades between the updated 2016 and 2017 indices. However, Opportunity Grades from 2011 to 2015 were based on the 2011 cut-off points. Because of this, county grades from 2011 to 2015 (or from the original 2016 Index) should not be compared with those from the updated 2016 Index or 2017 Index.

Data Definitions and Sources

The indicators that comprise the 2017 Opportunity Index are derived from a number of sources – Census Bureau data and statistics compiled by reputable nonprofit organizations.

ECONOMY DIMENSION
Indicator: Unemployment rate
Definition: The total number of people without jobs who actively looked for work within the preceding four weeks and were available to take a job, as a percentage of the total number in the labor force (those working or unemployed).
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics and news releases (http://www.bls.gov/lau/)
Note: Rates in the 2017 Opportunity Index refer to April 2017 and are not seasonally adjusted.

Indicator: Median household income
Definition: The income level that falls at the midpoint of the total distribution of households, ranked from richest to poorest. Household income includes work earnings from jobs or self employment, as well as income from interest, dividends, rent, Social Security, pension payments, unemployment compensation, cash welfare benefits and other forms of money regularly received by any member of the household.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml).
Note: Because income is not distributed evenly across households, the average (mean) is much higher than the median, and thus the median is generally considered to give a fairer picture of income for a “typical” household. In the 2017 Opportunity Index, median household income data at the state level refer to 2015; for counties, data refer to 2011–2015. To facilitate year-to-year comparisons, income figures presented in the Opportunity Index are adjusted for inflation so they can be expressed in 2010 dollars.

Indicator: Poverty rate
Definition: Percentage of people of all ages living with family incomes below the federal poverty line.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml).
Note: The federal poverty line is the amount of pretax cash income considered adequate for an individual or family to meet basic needs. It is updated annually for inflation, based on Consumer Price Index changes, and is adjusted for family size and composition. In 2015, a four-person family with two children would be considered to live in poverty if it had income less than $24,046. Poverty rate data in the 2017 Opportunity Index for states and the nation refer to 2015; county data refer to 2011–2015.

Indicator: 80/20 ratio (ratio of household income at the 80th percentile of income to that of the 20th percentile)
Definition: The 80/20 ratio is a measure of income inequality describing the disparity in income between the household at the 80th percentile of income and the household at the 20th percentile. The 80/20 ratio for the United States is 4.9, meaning that the wealthiest fifth of households (those at the 20th percentile) have incomes nearly five times higher than those of households in the poorest fifth (the 80th percentile).
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml).
Note: 80/20 ratio data in the 2017 Opportunity Index for states and the nation refer to 2015 income; data for counties use 2011–2015 income.

Indicator: Number of banking institutions (commercial banks, savings institutions and credit unions) per 10,000 residents
Definition: The number of commercial banks, savings institutions and credit unions per 10,000 residents.
Source: Child Trends’ analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, County Business Patterns (https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cbp.html) and Population Estimates (https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest.html).
Note: Banking institutions included in this indicator include those under the following NAICS codes: 522110, 522120 and 522130. In the 2017 Opportunity Index, data for this indicator refer to 2015.

Indicator: Households spending less than 30 percent of household income on housing-related costs
Definition: The percentage of households spending less than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities (for households who rent), or on mortgage payments and other housing-related costs, such as real estate taxes or condo fees (for those who own homes).
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml).
Note: A widely accepted cut-off for housing affordability is housing-related costs that are no more than 30 percent of household income. Housing units for which costs and/or household income could not be determined are excluded from the calculation. For the nation and states, data refer to 2015; data for counties refer to 2011–2015.

Indicator: Broadband internet subscription
Definition: The percentage of households with subscriptions to broadband internet service (including both cable and DSL internet).
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml)
Note: This indicator is new to the 2017 Opportunity Index, replacing the percentage of households with high-speed internet—for which data are no longer collected. Broadband internet data in the 2017 Opportunity Index are from 2015. In the updated 2016 Index, data refer to 2014.

EDUCATION DIMENSION
Indicator: Preschool enrollment
Definition: The percentage of children ages three and four enrolled in public or private nursery school, preschool or kindergarten.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml).
Note: Data on preschool enrollment for states and the nation refer to 2015; data for counties refer to 2011–2015.

Indicator: On-time high school graduation rate
Definition: The percentage of high school freshmen who graduate after four years of high school.
Source: National and state data are from EDFacts’ Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) (https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/edfacts/data-files/index.html); county data are taken from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings’ analysis of school district-level ACGR data from the EDFacts site (http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/resources/2017-chr-measures-data-sources-and-years).
Note: The ACGR is calculated as “the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma, divided by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort of the graduating class. From the beginning of 9th grade (or the earliest high school grade), students who are entering that grade for the first time make up a cohort that is ‘adjusted’ by adding any students who subsequently transfer into the cohort and subtracting any students who subsequently transfer out, emigrate to another country or die.”1 Data for this indicator refer to the 2014–2015 school year. Prior to 2015, the Opportunity Index used a different measure, the Average Freshmen Graduation Rate, that is not comparable to the ACGR. The Department of Education stopped updating the Average Freshman Graduation Rate in 2012, adopting the ACGR as their preference, which is the indicator used in the Index since 2015.

Indicator: Associate degree or higher
Definition: The percentage of adults ages 25 and older who have completed an associate degree or higher.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml).
Note: Data for states and the nation refer to 2015; county-level data refer to 2011–2015.

HEALTH DIMENSION
Indicator: Low birth weight
Definition: The percentage of live births where the infant weighed less than 2,500 grams (approximately 5 lbs., 8 oz.).
Source: CDC WONDER (https://wonder.cdc.gov/natality-current.html)
Note: This indicator is new to the 2017 Opportunity Index. Data for states and the nation refer to 2015; data for counties refer to 2011–2015. The updated 2016 Index also includes this indicator; data for states and the nation refer to 2014; data for counties refer to 2010–2014.

Indicator: Health insurance
Definition: The percentage of the population under age 65 not covered by health insurance.
Source: American Community Survey (http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml)
Note: This indicator is new to the 2017 Opportunity Index. Data for states and the nation refer to 2015; data for counties refer to 2011–2015. The updated 2016 Index also includes this indicator; data for states and the nation refer to 2014; data for counties refer to 2010–2014.

Indicator: Deaths related to alcohol/drug use or suicide (rate per 100,000) Definition: The age-adjusted number of deaths, per 100,000 population, due to poisoning from drugs (including recreational and prescription drugs), or alcohol, or suicide.
Source: CDC WONDER (https://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html)
Note: This indicator is new to the 2017 Opportunity Index. The calculation includes several reported underlying causes of death compiled by CDC Wonder. The following ICD-10 codes are included: X40-X45, X60-X84 and Y10-Y15. Age adjusting accounts for localities differing in their age composition. Data for states and the nation refer to 2015; data for counties refer to 2011–2015. The updated 2016 Index also includes this indicator; data for states and the nation refer to 2014; data for counties refer to 2010– 2014.

COMMUNITY DIMENSION
Indicator: Volunteering
Definition: The percentage of adults ages 18 and older who performed volunteer work through or for an organization at any time in the previous year.
Source: Child Trends’ analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey and Volunteering Supplement. Due to sample-size limitations of the survey data, this indicator is calculated at the national and state levels only.
Note: Two years of survey responses were pooled to increase the sample available for analysis. This makes for more stable estimates. This indicator was updated slightly for the 2017 Opportunity Index and draws from two survey questions: “Since September 1 of last year, have you done any volunteer activities through or for an organization?” and “Sometimes people don’t think of activities they do infrequently or activities they do for children’s schools or youth organizations as volunteer activities. Since September 1 of last year, have you done any of these types of volunteer activities?” Data in the 2017 Opportunity Index refer to 2014– 2015. The updated 2016 Index also draws from these survey questions; data refer to 2013–2014. Prior to 2016, this indicator relied on the single question, “Since September 1 of last year, have you done any volunteer activities through or for an organization?”

Indicator: Voter registration rate
Definition: The percentage of the adult population registered to vote.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Voting and Registration (https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/voting-and-registration/p20-580.html)
Note: This indicator is new to the 2017 Opportunity Index. Historically, voter registration is higher in presidential election years than in midterm election years. This indicator will be updated biannually so that each update provides a rolling average that includes the most recent presidential election year and midterm election year. Data in the 2017 Opportunity Index are the average of registration rates for 2014 and 2016. The updated 2016 Index also includes this indicator; data are the average of registration rates in 2012 and 2014. Because counties and congressional districts frequently follow different borders, this indicator is calculated at the national and state levels only.

Indicator: Youth not in school and not working
Definition: The percentage of the population ages 16 to 24 who are not enrolled in school and not working or not currently seeking employment.
Source: Child Trends’ analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, PUMS Microdata (https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/data/pums.html) and custom tabulations for county and county equivalents provided by special arrangement with the U.S. Census Bureau.
Note: Data in the 2017 Opportunity Index for states and the nation refer to 2015; data for counties refer to 2011–2015.

Indicator: Violent crime rate
Definition: Total number of violent crimes reported to local law enforcement agencies, per 100,000 people. Violent crimes include homicide, rape, robbery and assault.
Source: State and national data are from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting, Crime in the U.S. (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/); county data from the County Health Rankings analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation Criminal Justice Information Services. County Health Rankings is a project of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Crime data are based on report data provided by nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies (LEAs) across the United States. Due to the number of reporting agencies, there is a reporting lag; not all LEAs report and some data reported may be incomplete.
Note: Data in the 2017 Opportunity Index for states and the nation refer to 2015; data for counties refer to 2012–2014.

Indicator: Primary care physicians
Definition: Number of primary care physicians per 100,000 population.
Source: Bureau of Health Workforce, Area Health Resources Files (https://datawarehouse.hrsa.gov/data/datadownload.aspx)
Note: This indicator is new to the 2017 Opportunity Index, replacing an indicator calculated as the number of doctors per 100,000 population. Data in the 2017 Opportunity Index refer to 2015. The updated 2016 Index also includes this indicator; data refer to 2014. State and national statistics for this indicator are derived from the county-level Area Health Resources Files. The number of primary care physicians includes non-federal physicians who are not currently in a residency program and who are younger than age 75.

Indicator: Grocery stores and produce vendors
Definition: The number of supermarkets, grocery stores and produce stands per 10,000 residents.
Source: Child Trends’ analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, County Business Patterns and Population Estimates Program (http://www.census.gov/econ/cbp/index.html and http://www.census.gov/popest/).
Note: NAICS codes 445110 and 445230 are used to gather the number of supermarkets, grocery stores and produce stands. Data in the 2017 Opportunity Index refer to 2015.

Indicator: Incarceration rate
Definition: The number of people incarcerated in jails or prisons per 100,000 residents ages 18 and older.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Correctional Populations in the United States (https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=11).
Note: This indicator is new to the 2017 Opportunity Index. Data are available at the national and state level only. Data in the 2017 Opportunity Index refer to 2015. The updated 2016 Opportunity Index also includes this indicator; data refer to 2014.

 

For a complete breakdown of how the Opportunity Index is calculated as well as source notes, please download the Opportunity Index 2017 Technical Supplement

To access the state and county data spreadsheets, please fill out the data sharing form.  

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