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Opportunity Index
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The Opportunity Index by Opportunity Nation

Today, the most commonly discussed measure on economic strength and security are the GDP and the poverty rate. Both measures are too limited and do not provide communities the data they need to understand the progress they can make in boosting measures of economic mobility for Americans.

This led us to our interest in developing an Opportunity Index that measures a number of indicators at the county and state levels that contribute to economic opportunity and mobility. We include indicators that have a demonstrated connection to expanding or restricting economic mobility and opportunity, which together help measure the opportunities that are present in different communities.

Are there good jobs? Do most young people graduate from high school on time? Are family doctors around? It is these central questions and others like them that are the focus of the Opportunity Index.

The places where people live are pivotal to the opportunities open to them. Neighborhoods and regions matter for employment, education, housing quality and stock, law enforcement and public safety, community organizations, and political processes. Some communities have characteristics that open many windows of opportunity for their residents; others do not.

The Community Opportunity Index measures these three dimensions to produce an overall opportunity score and grade for all 50 U.S. states plus Washington, DC. The Index also is used to grade over 2,400 U.S. counties.


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Opportunity Index
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State Rankings

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Opportunity Index
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Overview

The Opportunity Index measures the amount of opportunity across America. This index shows how states and counties perform on a set of indicators that measure access to opportunity in communities relative to the average performance of U.S. states and counties. The Index shows how states and counties perform on these indicators within three dimensions of opportunity. The following table summarizes the dimensions, themes, and indicators used in the Index to represent critical components of community opportunity.

Dimension Theme Indicator
Jobs and Local Economy Dimension JOBS Unemployment Rate (%)
WAGES Median Household Income ($)
POVERTY Poverty (% of population below poverty line)
ASSETS Banking Institutions (commercial banks, savings institutions, and credit unions per 1,000 residents)
AFFORDABLE HOUSING Renters Spending Less than 30% of Household Income on Housing Costs (%)
INTERNET ACCESS High-Speed Internet (% of households)
Education Dimension PRESCHOOL Preschool (% ages 3 and 4 in school)
K-12 On-Time High School Graduation (% of freshmen who graduate in four years)
POST-SECONDARY FUNDING State Higher Education Subsidy (% of annual average per pupil education and related costs covered by state) [STATES ONLY]
POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION Bachelor's Degree or Higher (% of adults 25 and over)
Community Health and Civic Life Dimension CIVIC ENGAGEMENT Group Membership (% of adults 18 and over involved in social, civic, sports, and religious groups [STATES ONLY]
VOLUNTEERISM Volunteerism (% of adults ages 18 and older) [STATES ONLY]
YOUTH ECONOMIC AND ACADEMIC INCLUSION Teenagers Not in School and Not Working (% ages 16-19) [STATES ONLY]
SAFETY Violent Crime (per 100,000 population) or Homicide (per 100,000) for counties where violent crime rates were not available
ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE Primary Care Providers (per 100,000 population)
ACCESS TO HEALTHY FOOD Grocery Stores and Supermarkets (% of zip codes with at least one )

Methodology

A final Opportunity Score is calculated for all 50 states and Washington DC. Additionally, about 2,400 counties and county equivalents which had a population of at least 10,000 as of the 2010 Census are sorted into five Opportunity Grades based on their achievement across the three dimensions. For a complete breakdown of how the Community Opportunity Index is calculated and source notes please see this document.

Sources

Economic Opportunity Dimension

Indicator: Unemployment Rate (%)
Definition: The total number of people who do not have jobs but who have actively looked for work within the preceding four weeks and are available to work. Data are for July 2011.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics tables and news releases. http://www.bls.gov/lau/

Indicator: Median Household Income ($)
Definition: The exact middle income of the distribution of households by income, ranked from wealthiest to poorest. Household income includes earnings from work, as well as other income from interest, dividends, Social Security, pension payments, unemployment compensation, and other regularly-received forms of money for members of the household. Data are for 2005-2009.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2005-2009. http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en

Indicator: Poverty (% of population below poverty line)
Definition: Percentage of people of all ages living in poverty. Data are for 2005-2009.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2005-2009. http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en

Indicator: Banking Institutions (commercial banks, savings institutions, and credit unions per 1,000 residents)
Definition: Total number of commercial banks, credit unions, and savings institutions divided by the resident population. Data are for 2009.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, County Business Patterns 2009 and CDC WONDER Bridged-Race Population Estimates for 2009 (Vintage 2009). http://www.census.gov/econ/cbp/index.html and http://wonder.cdc.gov/Bridged-Race-v2009.HTML

Indicator: Renters Spending Less than 30% of Household Income on Housing Costs (%)
Definition: The percentage of renters who spend less than 30% of their household income on rent and utilities. Data are for 2005-2009.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2005-2009. http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en

Indicator: High-Speed Internet (% of households)
Definition: Ratio of the number of residential fixed connections with a speed of at least 200 kbps in at least one direction to the total number of households. Data are for March, 2011.
Source: Federal Communications Commission Internet Access Services March, 2011 Release. http://transition.fcc.gov/wcb/iatd/comp.html

Educational Opportunity Dimension

Indicator: Preschool (% ages 3 and 4 in school)
Definition: The percentage of children ages 3 and 4 enrolled in public or private nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten. Data are for 2005-2009.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2005-2009. http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en

Indicator: On-Time High School Graduation (% of freshmen who graduate in four years)
Definition: The percentage of high school freshmen who graduate after four years of high school. Data are for the 2006-2007 school year.
Source: County Health Rankings analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. County Health Rankings 2011. http://www.countyhealthrankings.org

Indicator: State Higher Education Subsidy (% of annual average per pupil education and related costs covered by state)
Definition: State subsidy as a share of total average education and enrollment spending per full-time student in a public research university. Data are for 2009 and are only available for states.
Source: Delta Cost Project analysis of the Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS State Database (Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability. http://www.deltacostproject.org/data/state/

Indicator: Bachelor’s Degree or Higher (% of adults 25 and over)
Definition: The percentage of adults ages 25 and over who have completed a Bachelor’s or higher degree. Data are for 2005-2009.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2005-2009. http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en

Community Health and Civic Life Dimension

Indicator: Group Membership (% of adults 18 and over involved in social, civic, sports, and religious groups)
Definition: The percentage of adults 18 and over who report being members of social, civic, service, recreational, or religious groups in the previous year. Data are for 2008-2009 and are only available for states.
Source: American Human Development Project analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey, Civic Engagement Supplements for 2008 and 2009.

Indicator: Teenagers Not in School and Not Working (% ages 16-19)
Definition: The percentage of the population ages 16 to 19 who are not enrolled in school and either unemployed or not in the labor force. Data are for 2005-2009.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2005-2009. http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en

Indicator: Volunteerism (% of adults ages 18 and older)
Definition: The percentage of adults 18 and over who did volunteer work through or for an organization at any time in the previous year. Data are for 2009-2010 and are only available for states.
Source: American Human Development Project analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey, Volunteering Supplements for 2009 and 2010.

Indicator: Violent Crime (per 100,000 population)
Definition: Total number of violent crimes per 100,000 people. Violent crimes can include homicide, rape, robbery, and assault. State data are for 2009 while county data span 2006-2008.
Source: State data from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics (http://www.ucrdatatool.gov); county data from County Health Rankings analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation Criminal Justice Information Services. County data from Illinois were obtained by County Health Rankings from the Illinois State Police Uniform Crime Reporting data. University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. County Health Rankings 2011. http://www.countyhealthrankings.org). County data from Illinois were obtained by County Health Rankings from the Illinois State Police Uniform Crime Reporting data.

Indicator: Homicide (per 100,000 population)
Definition: Age-adjusted death rate due to homicide per 100,000 residents. Data are for 2001-2007.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. Health Indicators Warehouse. http://www.healthindicators.gov [accessed August 9th, 2011]

Indicator: Primary Care Providers (per 100,000 population)
Definition: The number of primary care physicians per 100,000 residents. Primary care physicians include those in general practice and internal medicine, family care, pediatrics, and obstetrics/gynecology. Data are for 2008.
Source: County Health Rankings analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Area Resource File. University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. County Health Rankings 2011. http://www.countyhealthrankings.org

Indicator: Healthy Food Stores (% of zip codes with at least one)
Definition: The percentage of zip-codes in a county or state with at least one grocery store, produce stand, or farmer’s market in that zip code.
Source: County Health Rankings analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, County Business Patterns. University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. County Health Rankings 2011. http://www.countyhealthrankings.org