Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan national coalition, has released the annual Opportunity Index, a composite measure for all 50 states and over 2,600 counties of 16 key economic, educational and civic factors that expand or restrict upward mobility for Americans.
According to the 2014 Opportunity Index, access to opportunity has increased by more than 6 percent nationwide since 2011, as the nation continues to recover from the Great Recession. Much of this growth is due to large improvements on specific economic and educational indicators. There was less robust improvement on civic indicators such as access to healthy food, volunteerism and access to healthcare.
In spite of gains in opportunity overall, the Index also shows that this progress has not ensured that many Americans, particularly teens and young adults, have kept up.
One of the indicators that correlates most closely with Opportunity Scores is the number of young Americans ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working, our nation’s “disconnected youth.” While this number has dropped significantly since 2013, from 5.8 million to 5.6 million in 2014, the four-year trend is more modest: there were 5.66 million disconnected youth in 2011.
“The Opportunity Index shows us that when young adults do well, our communities are more likely to do well,” says Mark Edwards, founder and co-chair of Opportunity Nation. “That’s why it’s so critically important for all sectors and political parties to work together to help teens and young adults succeed in the 21st century economy.”
Despite gains in opportunity overall (+6.3 percent since 2011), there are other areas I need of improvement:
- Median incomes are lower now than in 2011: -4.4 percent ($48,781 in 2014; $51,050 in 2011).
- Poverty rate is higher since 2011: 11.2 percent increase (15.9 percent in 2014; 14.3 percent in 2011).
- Income inequality is greater since 2011: 2.7 percent increase (4.9 percent in 2014; 4.79 percent in 2011).
- 5.6 million young adults are still disconnected from school and work.