Vermont #1, but nation's 'Opportunity Score' stalls

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Vermont #1, but nation's 'Opportunity Score' stalls

Thu, 12/15/2016 - 8:30am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Lower unemployment, increased high school graduation rates and a drop in violent crime, among other factors, drove multiple years of increased opportunity in the US, with Vermont achieving the highest score. But the nation's Opportunity Score remained unchanged since last year, according to the 2016 Opportunity Index. Poverty, wages and disconnected youth rates improved since the 2015 Index, but inequality has increased in 45 states and civic engagement weakened.

The annual Index, developed jointly by Measure of America and Opportunity Nation, measures 16 economic, educational and civic indicators that expand or constrict access to economic mobility. The Index ranks each state and grades more than 2,700 counties with an Opportunity Score.

1 Vermont 65.800
2 Massachusetts 63.120
3 New Hampshire 62.860
4 Connecticut 62.830
5 New Jersey 61.990
6 Maryland 61.140
7 North Dakota 60.820
8 Nebraska 60.790
9 Maine 60.220
10 Minnesota 60.070
11 Iowa 60.050
12 District of Columbia 59.610
13 Utah 59.560
14 South Dakota 59.010
15 Wisconsin 58.820
16 Delaware 58.640
17 Virginia 58.370
18 New York 58.340
19 Kansas 57.860
20 Colorado 57.840
21 Hawaii 56.950
22 Pennsylvania 56.460
23 Illinois 56.270
24 Washington 55.460
25 Montana 55.160
26 Rhode Island 54.740
27 Missouri 54.220
28 Wyoming 54.100
29 Indiana 53.850
30 Ohio 53.510
31 North Carolina 53.000
32 California 52.330
33 Oregon 52.280
34 Michigan 52.240
35 Alaska 51.890
36 Texas 51.420
37 Idaho 50.770
38 South Carolina 50.420
39 Tennessee 50.150
40 Florida 50.090
41 Oklahoma 50.050
42 Kentucky 49.820
43 Arkansas 49.230
44 West Virginia 48.880
45 Georgia 48.070
46 Alabama 47.690
47 Arizona 47.070
48 Louisiana 45.780
49 Mississippi 45.500
50 Nevada 43.670
51 New Mexico 43.380

"The country just experienced an election where geography factored into Americans' experiences  on their access to opportunity. The 2016 Opportunity Index tells us that where you live still does play too large a role in access to the American Dream," said Opportunity Nation Executive Director Monique Rizer. "Where you were born or who your parents are should not determine your future, but today those factors can outweigh hard work and persistence. That should not be. We need to collaborate to create local and national systems that work so every child and young adult can get a fair shot at life."

The nation's 2016 Opportunity Score is 54, a 4.4 point increase since the first Index in 2011. Additional 2016 Index findings:

  • Prosperity is not shared in all regions:
    • New England performed well overall, with four states ranking among the top five states for opportunity
    • States in the West and South dominate the bottom five states for opportunity
  • Top five states in the 2016 Index: 1) Vermont, 2) Massachusetts, 3) New Hampshire, 4) Connecticut, 5) New Jersey.
  • The bottom five states: 51) New Mexico, 50) Nevada, 49) Mississippi, 48) Louisiana, 47) Arizona.
  • The top five graded counties in the 2016 Index: Falls Church City County, Virginia; Howard County, Maryland; Hamilton County, Indiana; Williamson County, Tennessee; and Dukes County, Massachusetts.
  • The bottom five graded counties are: Star County, Texas; Torrance County, New Mexico; Warren County, Georgia; Yazoo County, Mississippi; and Willacy County, Texas.
  • Since the 2011 Index, the rate of violent crime in the U.S. decreased by over 15 percent with 41 states showing improvement in this indicator.
  • The strongest correlator with Opportunity Scores is the rate of disconnected youth - young people ages 16 to 24 who are not in school and not working. Youth disconnection has fallen 9.11 percent since 2011 and 4.5 percent since the 2015 Index. Roughly 411,000 fewer young people nationwide are disconnected from both school and work compared to the 2011 Index.
    • 5.3 million young people, or 13.2 percent, are considered disconnected youth in the 2016 Index, which is still above pre-recession levels of 12.9 percent.
    • Forty-one states reduced their youth disconnection rates.
  • Access to grocery stores, group membership, volunteerism and the number of doctors per 100,000 people all declined in 2016.
    • The national average of grocery stores and produce vendors per 10,000 people is 2.2. (Down 0.65 percent from 2011, down 1.96 percent from the 2015 Index.)
    • The national average of group membership (percentage of adults 18 and older involved in social, civic, sports and religious groups) is 36.2 percent. (Down 3.21 percent from 2011, down 8.98 percent from the 2015 Index.)
    • The national average of volunteerism (percentage of adults aged 18 and older who volunteer) is 25.4 percent. (Down 4.10 percent from 2011, down 0.06 percent from the 2015 Index.)
    • The national average of medical doctors per 100,000 people is 270.5. (Up four percent from 2011, but down 5.59 percent from the 2015 Index.)

"There is a lot of good news in the Opportunity Index this year. It's particularly heartening to see the youth disconnection rate continuing to fall, as we know that youth disconnection is an important indicator of community opportunity," said Kristen Lewis, co-director of Measure of America. "One worrisome exception to the positive findings is income inequality. Income inequality has increased in 45 states since the first iteration of the Index in 2011."

To illustrate that access to upward mobility varies greatly by geography, and that some states and counties have wider opportunity gaps than others, Opportunity Nation compared two counties. A child growing up in Nassau County, New York has a better chance at going to college, getting a family-sustaining job and living in a safe neighborhood than a child born in Tarrant County, Texas, even though those two counties have similar population sizes (1.3 million and 1.8 million respectively) and the same unemployment rate (3.7 percent). Nassau County, a suburb of New York City, received an A- on the 2016 Opportunity Index, while Tarrant County, a suburb of Fort Worth, received a C. One contributing cause of these grades was the difference in household income: Nassau County has an average income of $90,634 and Tarrant County comes in at $53,170.

Unemployment Rate (%) 3.2% 5.0%
Median Household Income ($) $49,890.4 $49,421.6
Poverty (% of population below poverty line) 12.2% 15.5%
80/20 Ratio (Ratio of household income at the 80th percentile to that of the 20th percentile) 4.4 5.0
Banking Institutions (commercial banks, savings institutions, and credit unions per 10,000 residents) 5.3 3.8
Households Spending Less than 30% of Household Income on Housing Costs (%) 63.0% 65.6%
High-Speed Internet (% of households) 81.0% 72.7%
Preschool (% ages 3 and 4 in school) 54.7% 47.1%
On-Time High School Graduation (% of freshmen who graduate in four years) 87.8% 82.3%
Associate Degree or Higher (% of adults 25 and older) 42.6% 38.2%
Community Health & Civic Life VERMONT NATIONAL
Group Membership (% of adults 18 and over involved in social, civic, sports, and religious groups) 46.2% 36.2%
Youth Not in School and Not Working (% ages 16-24) 9.1% 13.2%
Youth Not in School and Not Working (number ages 16-24) 7,320 5,252,896
Volunteerism (% of adults ages 18 and older) 28.9% 25.4%
Violent Crime (per 100,000 population) 99.3 365.5
Medical Doctors (per 100,000 population) 373.0 270.5
Grocery Stores and Produce Vendors (per 10,000 population) 3.9 2.2
Population 626,562 318,857,056

Visit to explore the complete dataset and methodology.

About the Opportunity Index:

The Opportunity Index is an annual composite measure at the state and county levels of 16 economic, educational, and civic factors that expand or restrict upward mobility. The Opportunity Index ranks all 50 states plus Washington, DC with scores 100 to one, grades more than 2,700 counties A through F, and is designed to help identify bipartisan, cross-sector solutions that expand opportunity for more Americans. The Opportunity Index was jointly developed by Opportunity Nation and Measure of America.

About Opportunity Nation:

Opportunity Nation is a bipartisan, national coalition of more than 350 businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and community leaders working to expand economic mobility. Opportunity Nation seeks to close the opportunity gap by amplifying the work of its coalition members, advocating policy and private sector actions, and releasing the annual Opportunity Index.

About Measure of America:

Measure of America, a Project of the Social Science Research Council, provides easy-to-use yet methodologically sound tools for understanding well-being, opportunity and inequality in America and for stimulating fact-based conversations about issues we all care about: health, education and living standards.

SOURCE Opportunity Nation. 12.13.2016