The 2019 Opportunity Index
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 also include the educational, health-related, and community conditions and resources that impact one’s ability to thrive. Creating circumstances for all individuals and families to thrive in their communities requires a complex set of strategies that vary according to each community’s history, culture, needs, assets, and demographic makeup.
Historically, Opportunity in the United States has 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.1 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 $12,920.2 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 maternal3 and infant4 mortality, differential disciplinary action by race in educations settings begins as early as kindergarten,5 and neighborhoods comprised predominantly of people of color are less likely to have access to healthy food options than white neighborhoods.6 In this report, we explore racial and ethnic disparities in Index indicators at a national level.
1. Glantz, A & Martinez, E. (2018). For people of color, banks are shutting the door to homeownership. Emeryville, CA: Center for Investigative Reporting; Reid, C.K., Bocian, D., Li, W., & Quercia, R.G. (2017). Revisiting the subprime crisis: The dual mortgage market and mortgage defaults by race and ethnicity, Journal of Urban Affairs, 39:4, 469-487.
2. Survey of Income and Program Participation. (2016). Wealth, Asset Ownership, & Debt of Households Detailed Tables: 2016. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau.
3. United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue in Pregnancy-Related Deaths. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0905-racial-
4. United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Infant Mortality Rates by Race and Ethnicity, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth
5. Owens, J & McLanahan, S. (2019). Unpacking the Drivers of Racial Disparities in School Suspension and Expulsion. Social Forces, 98(4): 1548-1577.
6. Brooks, K. (2014). Research Shows Food Deserts More Abundant in Minority Neighborhoods. Johns Hopkins Magazine. Spring. Retrieved from: https://hub.jhu.edu/magazine/2014/spring