The overall Opportunity Score for the nation for 2017 is 52.4 out of 100, an increase of 1.3 points (2.6%) since 2016, driven by improvements in all four dimensions:
4.3% increase in the ECONOMY dimension
2.8% increase in the EDUCATION dimension
2.1% increase in the HEALTH dimension*
1.1% increase in the COMMUNITY dimension
For a snapshot of each dimension, visit the 2017 Opportunity Index resources section.
Among the counties where changes from 2016 to 2017 could be calculated, opportunity increased in the majority (77.8 percent).
While opportunity increased for the nation as a whole, some areas are being left behind. At the bottom of the rankings,18 counties received an F, 10 more than in 2016. These counties were concentrated mostly in the South as well as in New Mexico. Moreover, about a third of these counties had 2017 grades of F after receiving a higher grade in 2016.
Opportunity remains segregated by race and ethnicity. Half of the counties with the lowest levels of opportunity are ones where people of color are in the majority. No county that was more than 20 percent American Indian or Alaska Native received an Opportunity Grade higher than a C.
For states, high incarceration rates are a close second to youth disconnection as the two indicators most associated with lower opportunity. This is the first time in the Index’s history that incarceration was included as an indicator.
For counties, the percentage of the population with an associate degree or higher is most associated with opportunity (followed by the percentage of disconnected youth and median household income). This suggests that economic opportunity (or the lack thereof) has an intergenerational component where the education and employment struggles of young people often mirror those of their parents and neighbors.
* To compare 2016 to 2017 as well as to check the strength of the new Index composition, Child Trends recalculated the 2016 Opportunity Index using the structure of the 2017 Index.
Youth Who Are Disconnected
For the first time in the Index’s history the rate of disconnected youth dropped below five million nationally. These are young adults ages 16–24 who are not in school and not working, but are available and looking for work. The proportion of youth who are disconnected from employment or education declined in most states (37).
In the wake of the nation’s recovery from the housing finance crisis of the 2000’s, housing affordability improved in every state except Louisiana. The rate of poverty is also rising, and the trend continues toward greater inequality of income.
The nation’s rate of violent crime dropped in nearly half of states, but rose in 10 states.
Adult educational attainment has gone up in every state. This is measured by the percentage of adults who have an associate degree or higher.
Enrollment in preschool has declined in the majority of states (27) and improved in fewer than a third.