For the nation, the 2019 Opportunity Score stands at 53.2 out of 100. This increase of 0.15 points (0.3 percent) in overall Opportunity since 2018 indicates minimal change over the prior year but is driven by improvements in the Economy and Education dimensions as well as declines in the Health dimension.
The largest increase (2.9 percent) was in Economy while Education saw growth of 1.5 percent. The Community dimension was largely unchanged (0.3 percent increase), and the Health dimension declined by 3.7 percent. While the changes between 2018 and 2019 are small, it is notable that since 2016, the national score has risen 2.1 points (4.2 percent). Despite these overall gains, the Health score has fallen for the second year in a row to 52.0 (2.4 points lower than the 2016 Health score of 54.4). As the nation faces a pandemic, investment in health is more important than ever. For the overall Index to grow, these declines needed to be offset by the other dimensions. Strong growth in the Economic dimension and smaller but steady growth in the Education and Community dimensions compensated for declines in the Health dimension.
Historically and currently, Opportunity in the United States in not been equally distributed. Disparities across the various dimensions of Opportunity stem from both overt and covert racism embedded in systems that shape Opportunity from their inception. As racial justice issues have become more prominent in recent months, it is particularly important to call out ongoing systemic racism that continues to prevent people of color from accessing Opportunity that is readily available to white people. For example, while racial discrimination in lending has been illegal since 1968, investigations have found that Black and Latinx individuals are still more likely to be denied mortgage loans and are more often directed to loan products that may be less viable in the long term. These practices perpetuate disparity in Opportunity through generations because they limit the ability of people of color to purchase homes (or finance other large expenditures). As of 2016, on average, non-Hispanic white families had a net worth of $143,600 while Black families had a net worth of $12,920. This is just one example of how discriminatory practices create disparate access to Opportunity. Discriminatory practices exist across all dimensions of Opportunity and contribute continuously to disparities. Populations of color face higher maternal and infant mortality, differential disciplinary action by race in educations settings begins as early as kindergarten, and neighborhoods comprised predominantly of people of color are less likely to have access to healthy food options than white neighborhoods.
In the 2019 Opportunity Index and Briefing Book, we further explore racial and ethnic disparities in Index indicators at a national level.