Data & Scoring

The Opportunity Index is a composite measure that draws upon important economic, educational, health, and community-related indicators of opportunity. The Index was launched in 2011 and has since been updated regularly. It provides insight into the multidimensional nature of opportunity in the United States. The indicators are broken down geographically to measure opportunity for individual states and counties, as well as aid policymakers and other stakeholders as they work to increase opportunity in our nation.

In 2017, Child Trends led a structural change to the Index, affecting a number of its indicators and dimensions. The 2018 Opportunity Index was jointly developed by Child Trends and the Forum for Youth Investment’s Opportunity Nation campaign.
The Opportunity Index continues to incorporate the important structural updates made in 2017, including the newest dimension (Health), and a number of indicator updates (detailed information on those updates can be found in the 2017 Technical Supplement). For this Index release, we have also disaggregated several indicators at the national level by race/ethnicity, and gender (for 12 indicators, data were available disaggregated by race/ethnicity; for 10 indicators, data were available disaggregated by gender). This analysis begins an examination of what disparities persist across the various facets of opportunity, which will continue in future editions of the Opportunity Index. To download the full 2018 analysis, technical supplement, or briefing book, visit the Resources Page.

Each dimension of the Index 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 of the 2018 Index with versions prior to the 2016 Index inadvisable.

The following table shows the structure of the 2018 Opportunity Index.

 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 can be found in the 2018 Opportunity Index Technical Supplement, found on the Resources Page.

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