For children across the nation, the ability to live out the “American Dream” may depend more on their individual ZIP codes than their national identity, according to the latest Opportunity Index report.
The index was created by Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan national campaign made up of businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits, civic organizations, and individuals with the mission of improving economic mobility and closing the opportunity gap among young people.
Using data collected during the most recent U.S. Census and other surveys, the report examines—and grades states and ZIP-code areas on—a variety of economic, education, and community factors to measure the condition of opportunity and economic mobility in the United States, including Internet access, college-graduation rates, income inequality, and public safety.
It finds, for example, that even though the national unemployment rate has decreased by 20 percent since the first index was issued three years ago, the nation became poorer over the same period, with 49 states reporting an increase in the percentages of residents living in poverty and 45 experiencing a drop in median household income in 2013.
The report also notes that 5.8 million, or 15 percent, of young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 are “disconnected"—neither in school nor working. Overall, the nation’s Opportunity Index score has risen 2.6 percent in the past three years, from 49.59 to 50.9 out of a possible 100. But the number of disconnected youth has held fairly steady.
A version of this article appeared in the November 13, 2013 edition of Education Week as Children’s Odds of Success Ranked by State, ZIP Code