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Index compares child opportunity in the 100 largest US metro areas

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Opportunities for children vary not just from one metro area to another, but also between neighborhoods in the same metro area.

By tracking the changes within these neighborhoods, local governments, city planners, nonprofits and even families can measure and improve the resources necessary for a child’s healthy development.

Building on their 2014 research, Brandeis University’s Child Opportunity Index, or COI version 2.0, provides a child opportunity score from 1 to 100, ranking about 72,000 neighborhoods in the 100 largest metro areas in the country. In New Mexico, the only metro area studied was Albuquerque. Each neighborhood is assigned one of five opportunity levels – very low, low, moderate, high and very high.

The COI version 2.0 will be made available to the public Wednesday.

Using various metrics under three main domains – educational opportunity, health and environment opportunity, and social and economic opportunity – the new and improved index can reveal how child opportunity in a given metro area compares with the rest of the nation; which neighborhoods have the highest and lowest levels of child opportunity; the extent of inequality between lower- and higher-opportunity neighborhoods; how difficult the conditions are for a child in a very low-opportunity neighborhood in a given metro area compared with those in other metro areas; and the effect that racial and/or ethnic inequalities have on a child’s ability to access higher-opportunity neighborhoods.

During an online media preview last week, Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Brandeis professor of human development and social policy, and lead researcher on COI version 2.0, said a number of neighborhood qualities influence children’s health and education. They include air quality, access to healthy food, walkability, quality of schools, teacher experience, the poverty rate of neighborhood residents, housing vacancies and homeownership rates.

Neighborhoods also shape children’s future expectations for such things as high school graduation, college attendance, employment prospects, adult income and even life expectancy.

“There is a seven-year difference in life expectancy between very low- and very high-opportunity neighborhoods,” Acevedo-Garcia said. “This … difference is of the same magnitude as the difference in life expectancy in countries as dissimilar as Mexico and Sweden.”

“Race and ethnicity are the strongest predictors of child neighborhood opportunity,” she said. In nearly all metro areas, the typical white, non-Hispanic child lives in a neighborhood with a higher opportunity score; while in nearly all metros, the typical black or Hispanic child lives in a neighborhood with a lower child-opportunity score.

The child-opportunity score for white children is 73, compared to 24 for black children and 33 for Hispanic children.

In the 100 largest metro areas, black children are 7.6% more likely than white children to live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods, while Hispanic children are 5.3 times more likely, Acevedo-Garcia said.

Children who are the most likely to have the highest rates of opportunity in Albuquerque are white and Asian/Pacific Islander children. (White: 25.7% high, 33.7% very high. Asian/PI: 38.1% high, 35.7% very high.) Hispanic and black children in Albuquerque are also more likely to have very low and low rates of opportunity. (Hispanic: 22.5% very low, 26.5% low, black: 22.3% very low, 19.9% low.) Asian/PI and white children are the least likely to have low or very low rates of opportunity.

According to the COI analysis, the 100 largest metro areas are home to 9.8 million children who live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods. Of them, 4.5 million are Hispanic, 3.6 million are black, 1.2 million are white and 280,000 are Asian or Pacific Islanders.

Of the 100 largest metro areas nationwide, there are more lower-opportunity areas in the southern parts of the United States.

Anthony Jackson contributed to this report.


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