The Heller School For Social Policty And Management The Heller School For Social Policy and Management Brandeis University

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Child Opportunity Index measuring neighborhood opportunities for children

  • Explore metropolitan area maps of the newly developed Child Opportunity Index


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Spotlight and News

New report on measuring and mapping neighborhood-based opportunities for U.S. Children

Report/Visualizations | September 15, 2016

The Child Opportunity Index (COI), developed by and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, illustrates the geography of opportunity for children in each of the 100 largest metropolitan areas.  Recently featured in a major Boston Globe article focusing on the mismatch between opportunity and the location of subsidized housing, the COI has a wide range of other applications useful to practitioners, advocates, researchers, and the press.  A new report  highlights several of these applications as well as important findings on patterns of racial/ethnic inequality in children's neighborhoods.  For example, across the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, Hispanic and black children are three to four times more likely to live in the lowest opportunity neighborhoods within their metro area than are white children.


The report highlights the importance of neighborhood-based opportunity for healthy child development and the consequent need to understand whether all children have access to neighborhood opportunity. After describing the construction, capabilities, and limitations of the Index, we examine the distribution of children of different racial/ethnic groups across neighborhoods with different levels of opportunity, and explain how to interpret the Index maps and associated equity measures. We also explore whether residential segregation affects inequities in children’s access to neighborhood opportunity. The report concludes with examples of how organizations are using this tool to better understand and improve children’s neighborhood environments.


We find vast racial/ethnic inequities in children’s access to neighborhood opportunity across all metropolitan areas, but also variation in the extent of inequities in the concentration of racial/ethnic minority children in very low-opportunity neighborhoods (relative to white children).  


Metros with the highest inequity in children’s concentration in very low-opportunity neighborhoods:

  • Black children: Albany, NY; Milwaukee, WI; Omaha, NE
  • Hispanic children: Boston, MA; Lancaster, PA; Providence, RI
  • Asian children: Minneapolis, MN; Salt Lake City, UT; Sacramento, CA

Read the report here.  Other available features include an interactive mapping tool illustrating the geography of neighborhood opportunity and the distribution on children by race/ethnicity, a visualization tool summarizing racial/ethnic inequities, a ranking feature, one-page snapshots for 25 metros, a library resource describing the ways that organizations are already using the Child Opportunity Index, Technical documentation, and a webinar tutorial on the Index.