A Review of Tools Measuring Opportunity in the United States
Researchers at universities, policy institutes, and other nonprofits have developed multiple tools that put data in the hands of policymakers and other decision makers to make access to opportunity more equitable in their communities. Opportunity refers to the sets of circumstances that make it possible for an individual to achieve their full potential. A holistic view of opportunity cannot be limited to economic circumstances and must include the educational, health-related, and community conditions and resources that impact one’s ability to thrive.
Many of these tools are intended to compile and analyze timely and critical national, state, and county-level data. Additionally, they can demonstrate to communities how opportunity changes over time, and make data readily accessible to individuals and groups that influence the systems, services, and programs that regularly create or influence opportunity and well-being. Efforts to improve access to opportunity can occur simultaneously at many levels, which makes making measuring progress a difficult task. Small, local social service organizations, for example, may not have the capacity to regularly track changing environmental and social factors (e.g., healthy food access, incarceration rates, preschool enrollment, etc.). Opportunity-focused data tools can be used to track successes and challenges and to illuminate important contextual factors such as leverage points that can open opportunity to more people and improve outcomes.