Posts About Data

Earlier today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its 2014 estimates on income, poverty and health insurance coverage in the United States. The official poverty rate for 2014 was 14.8 percent, a statistically insignificant change from 14.5 percent in 2013 but still far above the pre-recession rate of 12.5 percent in 2007.

Children and families of color continued to see disproportionately higher rates of poverty in 2014. Additionally, female-headed households faced higher rates of poverty than those of male-headed households or of married-couple families.

Poverty Highlights

  • The change in the poverty rate for children under 18 was not statistically significant—from 19.9 percent in 2013 to 21.1 percent in 2014—with 15.5 million children living in poverty.
  • The 2014 poverty rates among non-Hispanic Whites and Asians were 10.1 percent and 12.0 percent respectively, and the poverty rates for Blacks and Hispanics were 26.2 percent and 23.6 percent respectively.
  • The poverty rates for Black and Hispanic children, at 37.1 percent and 31.9 percent respectively, were significantly higher than their non-Hispanic White and Asian peers, who faced poverty rates of 12.3 percent and 14.0 percent respectively.
  • The poverty rate for families (households – not householder) was 12.7 percent, not significantly different from the rate in 2013 (12.4 percent).
  • The poverty rate for families with a female head of household (no husband present) remained unchanged from 2013 at 30.6 percent, while the poverty rate for families with a male householder (no wife present), also remained unchanged, at a significantly lower rate of 15.7 percent.
  • The poverty rate for children in female-headed households was four times the rate for children in married-couple families, at 46.5 percent and 10.6 percent respectively.

Income Highlights

Though the official median income in 2014 did not differ significantly statistically from 2013, Black and Hispanic individuals and families continued to face significant income disparities compared with their non-Hispanic White and Asian counterparts. Furthermore, women of color, particularly Black and Hispanic women, continued to face significantly lower earnings than their male counterparts.

  • The median household income in 2014 was $53,657, a statistically insignificant change from 2013. 
  • The real median income of non-Hispanic White households ($60,256) decreased by 1.7 percent while that of Black ($35,398), Asian ($74,297) and Hispanic ($42,491) households remained relatively the same.
  • In 2014, the median earnings of all women who worked full time, year-round ($39,621) was 79 percent of that for men working full time, year-round ($50,383). This ratio was not statistically different from that of 2013, but varied drastically when factoring in the median earnings of Black ($31,229) and Hispanic ($26,810) women who worked full time in 2014.

Health Insurance Highlights

2014 represents the first year in which the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was fully implemented. As a result, the share of Americans lacking health insurance coverage fell dramatically from 13.3 percent in 2013 to 10.4 percent in 2014. The report released today considered people “insured” if they were covered by any type of health insurance for all or part of the previous calendar year. It showed a significant increase in coverage for both Black and Hispanic people. The states that expanded Medicaid experienced significant drops in their uninsured population.

  • The rate of private coverage increased by 1.8 percent to 66.0 percent in 2014, and the government coverage rate increased by 2.0 percent to 36.5 percent.
  • Young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 accounted for more than 40 percent of newly insured Americans.
  • In 2014, the uninsured rate for non-Hispanic White populations was 7.6 percent, compared with 11.8 percent for Black, 9.3 percent for Asian and 19.9 percent for Hispanic populations. Black and Hispanic populations saw the most significant decrease, with both groups seeing their uninsured rate decrease by 4.5 and 4.1 percent, respectively.

Supplemental Poverty Measure Highlights

For the first time, along with the official data, the Census Bureau released data from the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which takes into account cash income, public benefits and subtracts necessary expenses. The official poverty measure is based on only pre-tax money income, and SPM also considers the value of in-kind benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school lunches, housing assistance and refundable tax credits. Additionally, the supplemental poverty measure deducts necessary expenses for crucial goods and services, including taxes, child care, transportation costs and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

According to the SPM:

  • The supplemental poverty rate was 15.3 percent, not a statistically significant change from 2013.
  • The supplemental poverty rate for children, taking into account tax credits and noncash benefits, was 16.7 percent—far lower than the official child poverty rate of 21.1 percent.
  • The top three federal benefit programs that reduced poverty in 2014 were Social Security, refundable tax credits and SNAP. Each program reduced the supplemental poverty rate by 8.2 percent, 3.1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
  • The greatest increases to the supplemental poverty rate were caused by work expenses (accounting for a 2.0 percent increase) and out-of-pocket medical expenses (accounting for a 3.5 percent increase).

Deep Poverty

The data released today show that 46.7 million people are living in poverty in the United States, of which 20.8 million are living in deep poverty—at or below 50 percent of the poverty threshold. Significant disparities in deep poverty exist for communities of color, as Black and Hispanic populations faced deep poverty rates of 12.0 percent and 9.6 percent respectively, compared with 5.6 percent for both Asian and non-Hispanic White populations.

Children and families living in deep poverty often face significant barriers to accessing the programs that are designed to lift people out of poverty. Today’s data show that in comparison with the 62.4 percent of those living at twice the poverty line who receive benefits from means-tested programs, only 13.8 percent of families in deep poverty receive these same benefits.

The Important Role of Public Policy in Supporting Children and Families in Deep Poverty

Children and families in deep poverty face significant, wide-ranging and intersecting barriers, including homelessness, immigration status, mental or physical impairments, substance abuse or addiction and/or intellectual disabilities. These barriers compound the challenges experienced by many poor families including access to child care and/or transportation. Public policy should provide targeted and readily available supports that address all these barriers to successfully meet the needs of families living in deep poverty.

Policies that create incentives to serve families in the greatest need, reduce barriers to service eligibility and access and set aside slots for families living below the poverty threshold are all ways policy can better meet the needs of families in deep poverty. For example, letting parents who have lost their employment maintain their child care subsidy provides a necessary support in finding and starting a new job while also ensuring continuity for their young child. Efforts that are targeted at meeting the needs of children and their parents are important in trying to break the often intergenerational problem of deep poverty.

The Need for a Focus on Equity 

The poverty data released today indicate children and families of color continue to face disproportionately higher poverty rates and lower incomes when compared with White families, which has been consistent for more than three decades. Black children were two times more likely to face deep poverty than White children and more than three times more likely than Asian children. Deep poverty rates for Black children are 18.2 percent, Hispanic children 12.9 percent, Asian children 4.9 percent and White children 7.4 percent. This inequity shows the need for innovative solutions and targeted public investments, especially for children and families living in deep poverty. Policy strategies should take into account the existence of disparate opportunities and outcomes. The entire community benefits from policy strategies and solutions that focus on equity.

For more strategies to improve outcomes for children and families of color, read our recent report Achieving Racial Equity or visit


Posted In: Poverty and Economic Stability, Well-Being, Data

The 2013 Supplemental Poverty Measure

· Natasya Gandana

Last week, the Census Bureau released the 2013 poverty rate based on an alternative measure of poverty, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). In 2013, the supplemental poverty measure found that 15.5 percent of people are living in poverty, compared to 16 percent in 2012. Children were found to have a supplemental poverty rate of 16.4 percent compared with 20.4 percent using the official measure. The SPM found that adults over 65 have a poverty rate of 14.6 percent compared with 9.6 percent using the official measure.

The SPM differs from the current poverty measure because it takes into account the impact of non-cash benefits, necessary expenditures for families and geographic location. Though the official U.S. poverty measure is updated annually to adjust for inflation, it provides an absolute definition of poverty, with families either defined as living in poverty or above it. Alternatively, the SPM provides a detailed look into the lives of families living in- or near - poverty and provides information on the effectiveness of safety-net programs.

The SPM takes into account factors including:

  • unrelated people (like foster children and unmarried partners);
  • information on what people spend today for basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, and utilities;
  • housing costs, including related factors such as geographic location, if a family pays a mortgage, rents or owns their home; and
  • non-cash benefits from the government that help families meet their basic needs, while subtracting expenses, such as health care, taxes, commuting costs, etc.

The SPM also provides important information demonstrating the success of government benefits in keeping millions of families out of poverty. By including taxes, benefits, and other necessary expenses, the SPM provides information on what resources people need to make ends meet and measures the resources that are currently in place.

The findings from the SPM show how Social Security, refundable tax credits, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are three programs that have a strong impact on the lives of low-income people. Without Social Security, the supplemental poverty rate would be 24.1 percent compared to the current rate of 15.5 percent – a significant 8.6 percent higher. Refundable tax credits also demonstrate a significant benefit to children, reducing the supplemental rate of poverty by 3 percent across all age groups and doubles for children with a reduction of 6.4 percent. These numbers are clear - government programs alleviate poverty and can improve the quality of life for low-income families and children.   

For more information on the Supplemental Poverty Measure, read the full report here.  

To read our blog post on the 2013 Census Poverty Data, click here.

Posted In: Data, Poverty and Economic Stability

Earlier today, the U.S. Census Bureau released reports on the 2013 data on income, poverty and health insurance coverage. This year, the data showed promising improvements in the poverty rate. For the first time since 2006, the official poverty rate dropped to 14.5 percent (down from 15 percent in 2012). There was also a reduction in the child poverty rate, this is a significant change and the first time child poverty has been reduced in the past thirteen years.  While huge disparities continue to exist for Black and Hispanic families, the rate of poverty experienced by Hispanics was reduced and income increased.  The poverty rate for other racial and ethnic groups remained unchanged. The 2013 poverty rates among non-Hispanic Whites and Asians were 9.6 percent and 10.5 percent respectively, while the poverty rates for Blacks and Hispanics were 27.2 percent and 23.5 percent respectively.

Poverty and Income Data Highlights

  • Hispanics were the only group to experience a significant drop in their poverty rate down from 25.6 to 23.5 percent.
  • The poverty rate for children under 18 fell from 21.8 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent- with 14.1 million children living in poverty.
  • The poverty rate for families fell to 11.2 percent from 11.8 percent.
  • The poverty rate for families with a female householder (no husband present) was 30.6 percent, while the poverty rate for families with a male householder (no wife present) was 15.9 percent.
  • The poverty rate for children in female-headed households was more than 5 times the rate for related children in married-couple families, 55.0 percent and 10.2 percent respectively.
  • The number of men and women working full time, year round with earnings increased by 1.8 million and 1.0 million respectively. The rate of fulltime year round workers went up from 71.1 percent to 72.7 percent for men and 59.4 percent up to 60.5 percent for women.

The Important Role of Public Policy in Supporting Children and Families. Refundable Tax Credits and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program help families with basic needs and prevent some from living in worse circumstances than they would have otherwise. Their value is not calculated into the poverty rate. If it were, the number of people living in poverty would be reduced by 3 percent and 1.6 percent respectively. Social Security also has a significant impact on children and families reducing poverty by 8.5 percent.

Experts attribute the reduction in child poverty to the increase in full-time, year round workers, a number that increased by more than 1 million between 2012 and 2013.  In order to support these families diverse, multi-generational, anti-poverty strategies are needed. These multi-generational approaches must be designed in a way that promotes economic stability for the entire family – including educational opportunities and work supports for parents and high quality early care and education opportunities for children, housing, transportation and tax credits, but also supports to build strong parent child relationships and prevent toxic stress.

The Need for a Focus on Equity. The poverty data released today indicate significant racial disparities.  Black and Hispanic families have continued to have disproportionately higher poverty rates and lower incomes when compared to White families, which has been consistent for more than three decades. Child poverty rates fell for non-Hispanic whites, Asians and Hispanics between 2012 and 2013, but the poverty rates for Black children did not change during the same time period. White non-Hispanic children were responsible for about half of the reduction in the number of children in poverty. This inequity shows the need for innovative solutions and targeted public investments. Policy strategies should take into account the existence of disparate opportunities and outcomes—attention to equity creates solutions that best meet the needs of the entire community.

To read CSSP's Statement on the New Poverty Data and the Need for Multi-Generational Policy, click here.

For more strategies to Reduce child poverty read our related report or visit

Posted In: Data

The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book, released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, marks the 25th edition of the report that details how children are faring, both at the state and national level. Born as a CSSP project in 1990, the national KIDS COUNT initiative was conceptualized as a way to help local communities, states and national leaders make better informed policy and practice decisions in order to improve the economic, health, educational, family and community well-being of America’s children. The data book continues to use an index of key indicators, allowing for the tracking of trends over time.

National data from before and after the recession indicate that while children experienced across-the-board gains in the areas of education and health, they did experience some setbacks in the domains of economic well-being and family/community factors. Broadly speaking, more children today are living in poor, single-parent families in areas of concentrated poverty, where parents lack secure employment while experiencing higher housing costs than in past years.

In addition to national data, the new KIDS COUNT report provides state profiles which detail how a state has done on each of the 16 indicators and provides domain-specific ranks in addition to how the state ranks in overall child well-being. There is, of course, variety both between states and even within the different domains for a single state as resources, policies and funding priorities vary considerably across the country.  Massachusetts, for example, who ranks first in terms of overall well-being, is ranked first in education indicators, second on health indicators, eighth in the family and community domain and drops to thirteenth in terms of economic well-being. 

Unfortunately, even within the areas of improvement, a concerning amount of racial inequity remains.  On more than half of the indicators examined, African American, American Indian and Latino children continue to experience negative outcomes at rates that are higher than the national average. In addition, these children fare worse than their white peers on 75 percent of indicators. The area in which they are keeping pace are the indicators surrounding health, indicating that recent policy efforts to increase access to health insurance, prenatal care and combat substance use have been effective.

Given the dramatic shift in the ethnic composition of children in the U.S., these trends are disturbing. The percentage of white children dropped from 69 percent in 1990 to 53 percent in 2012 while the percentage of Latino children doubled, from 12 to 24 percent during the same period. In fact, it is estimated that by 2018, children of color will be the majority. If racial inequities continue to exist at current levels, a distressing picture of our long-term economic and social future begins to emerge.  In order to change the trajectory, we have to address the reality that too many children of color begin life with multiple disadvantages

Working to increase equity is central to CSSP’s work. We believe that programs, policies and strategies must explicitly understand and account for the existence of disparate opportunities and outcomes based not just on race and ethnicity, but also gender, sexual orientation and other factors. Through initiatives like the Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare, get R.E.A.L. and Institutional Analysis, CSSP works to address inequities though comprehensive system reform. Equity is also a focus of all policy work conducted at CSSP and through We believe that policy strategies that explicitly address equity is the best way to meet both the needs of communities of color and broader societal goals.

For more information on CSSP’s organizational commitment to equity, please see our 2013 Annual Report: Equity and Social Change

Posted In: Data

CSSP is proud to release its 2013 annual report, focused on equity. We believe that good outcomes for children, families and communities can only be achieved if we're aware of, attuned to and have the knowledge and skills to tackle inequity.

 All children, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status or the neighborhood in which they live – deserve to be healthy, to enter school ready to learn and to become young adults who are prepared to succeed in life and in the world. And CSSP’s policy work understands that meaningful policy requires a focus on those who face the most significant barriers to opportunity and that no public policy is race or ethnicity neutral.

The report highlights disparities that exist in the outcomes central to our mission, the work we have pursued to address inequities and action steps we can all take in various spheres to produce a level playing field with opportunities for all. 

 Also noted in the report is a spotlight on, which was completely revamped in 2013. You’ll find that the new site is focused on providing guidance for policymakers – with a particular emphasis on addressing racial and other disparities – and on achieving equity.

Check out CSSP’s 2013 Annual Report below!

Posted In: Data, Results

Proposed Changes to CFSR Data Indicators

· Dana Connelly

Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) are periodic evaluations of state child welfare systems. CFSRs allow states the federal support necessary to assess their programs, policies and outcomes and the opportunity to see how they compare to nationally established standards. Recently, the Children’s Bureau published some proposed changes to the data indicators and national standards for the third round of CFSRs set to begin in Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2015.

While not dramatic, the proposed changes are designed to simplify the evaluation process and provide more accurate measures of state performance. Most measures will focus on the outcomes for a specific group of children (i.e. those who enter care in FY 2015), allowing states a more straightforward and accurate comparison. Other changes affect the statewide data indicators, national standards and performance improvement plans, as detailed below.

Statewide Data Indicators

CFSRs address three categories of outcomes: safety, permanency and child/family well-being.  While most of these indicators will remain the same for this round of reviews, the following changes are proposed:

  • Safety Outcome 1: Children are, first and foremost, protected from abuse and neglect.
    • Incidence of maltreatment while in foster care
    • Re-reporting of maltreatment measures will now include all cases in which an investigation was opened, whether or not abuse/neglect was confirmed, and the follow-up period will double from 6 to 12 months
  • Permanency Outcome 1: Children have permanency and stability in their living situation.
    • Placement stability will now capture each placement move children experience
    • Permanency – though reunification, adoption or guardianship
      • States will examine what percent of children who enter care in FY 2015 achieve permanency within 12 months
      • States will also track what percentage of children who have been in care over two years at the beginning of FY 2015 achieve permanency within 12 months
    • Re-entry rates are the percentage of children who achieve permanency, only to return to foster care within 12 months of their discharge.

National Standards

For measurement to mean anything, we have to have something to compare it to. For the next round of CFSRs, the Children’s Bureau proposes to set the standard for each data indicator for comparison at the national average in each category. State performance measures will take into account and adjust for factors at both state and child level, such as state foster care entry rate and child age, so states have an even playing field.

The use of individual indicators (in place of the previously used composite measures) is an exciting and welcome change. Performance will be easier to track as rates or percentages and interpretation will be simplified. In addition, state performance will be much more transparent.

States that fall below the national standard on any category will be required to include it in their program improvement plan (PIP).

Program Improvement Plans

Program improvement plans will be individualized for each state to address the data indicators that fall statistically below the national average. The three pieces of the PIP, the baseline, the improvement factor and the target rate, are based on state’s own past performance over the last 3 years:

  • Baseline: state’s observed performance on the indicator for the most recent year.
  • Improvement factor: percent change in performance greater than what could be expected by natural fluctuation.
  • Target rate: concrete state performance goal is the baseline * improvement factor
    • States can also meet their goals by meeting the national standard during the PIP monitoring period.

The new process for PIPs is also encouraging. This moves away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ mentality by recognizing and honoring the fact that states have different capacities for change.  States with less variation over the years will have more modest goals while those with substantial variation will have more aggressive goals.

These new standards are open for public comment through May 23 and will take effect in Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2015.  For full details of the proposed changes and contact information for providing feedback please refer to

Posted In: Data

The Importance of the California Poverty Measure

· Natasya Gandana

The current official U.S. measure used to estimate the percentage of people living in poverty by the Census Bureau omits several factors that are important determinants of poverty. Though it is annually updated for inflation and adjusted for family size, the official poverty measure has not changed from the formula developed in the 1960s. That formula was the cost of a subsistence diet multiplied by three, since food costs at that time made-up a third of a family’s budget. The poverty threshold was meant to reflect the minimum level of income needed to meet basic needs – like food - and as a result, has become a tool to track poverty trends. Most importantly, the threshold is used to determine eligibility for public assistance benefits, so if the threshold is too low or does not encompass up-to-date expenditures, many people that need benefits might not be eligible for those services. Adjusting the current measure can help to determine the real levels of poverty, as well as determining whether or not social programs are truly helping all of those in need.

Jointly produced by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality and the Public Policy Institute of California, California became the first state to create a new index to measure poverty in place of the official U.S. measure.

This new California Poverty Measure (CPM) improves on the official measure by including recent nationwide spending levels on food, shelter, clothing, and utilities and is adjusted to account for differences in housing costs across counties, and to differentiate among those who are renting, paying a mortgage, or those who have already paid-off their home. Food stamps and other non-cash benefits are also included. These accompaniments create a more accurate look of how individuals and families are faring by reassessing the resources people need to make ends meet and measuring the resources that are currently in place.

Based on the 2011 state data, California’s official poverty rate was 16.2 percent. After taking into account the augmented resources and updated thresholds offered by the California Poverty Measure, the percent of Californians living in poverty increased to 22.0 percent— an almost six percent difference, which is equivalent to 2.2 million more people living in poverty. Main findings from the California Poverty Measure show that high living costs offset resources families living in poverty have available to make ends meet. Add in medical and work expenses, such as commuting and child care, and that considerably raises the poverty rate.

Since states currently follow the official U.S. poverty measure to determine the distribution of public assistance programs, the California Poverty Measure is a valuable model for other state policymakers to consider as findings demonstrate the important role government programs play in measuring poverty. For example, without taking into consideration cash-based, in-kind, and tax-based safety net programs, the child poverty rate in California would increase to 39.0 percent, which is 13.9 percent higher than the official child poverty rate estimate of 25.1 percent.

Policymakers can use the California Poverty measure to understand the obstacles individuals and families living in poverty face, such as the high costs of rent that has led to a dramatic increase in the number of homeless families and to expand on programs, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, that have proven to lift people out of poverty.

Coming soon: More information on policy solutions in reducing poverty in our soon-to-be released report, Results-Based Public Policy Strategies for Reducing Child Poverty

Posted In: Poverty and Economic Stability, Data

Measuring 37 Years of Child Well-Being Trends

· Natasya Gandana

Created by the Foundation for Child Development, the Child and Youth Well-Being Index Project (CWI) at Duke University measures trends over time in the quality of life of America’s children from birth to age 18. The CWI tracks changes in the well-being of children annually as compared to the 1975 base-year values. The purpose of the CWI is to observe the changes in child well-being, improvements or deterioration, and by which domains. The index is based on seven Quality-of-Life/Well-Being domains. The domains are: Family Economic Well-Being, Safe/Risky Behavior, Social Relationships, Emotional/Spiritual Well-Being, Community Engagement, Educational Attainment, and Health. A numerical value above 100 indicates an improvement in overall child and youth well-being, as compared to the 1975 base-year values.

Last week, The Foundation for Child Development released the most recent report on the CWI.  The event outlined the major trends in the 2013 update, Measuring 37 Year Trends: 1975-2012.  The report showed little change in the overall CWI for the years 2010-2012.When looking at the predominant long-term trend in the CWI there is also little overall improvement, as compared to the 1975 baseline.

  • Key indicators, such as child poverty, decreases in secure parental employment, and median income, show that families with children under the age of 18 had a decade-long decline in the Family Economic Well-Being domain, which was further exacerbated by the 2008-2009 Great Recession. In 2011 and 2012, there were slight improvements; however, the values remained lower than those at the1975 baseline.
  • The Safe/Risky Behavior domain continues to show improvement, as a result of large declines in key indicators, such as teenage birth rates, violent crime victimizations (which declined from 1991-2011), and violent crime offending (which declined from 1993-2010).
  • There is a continued increase in the Community Engagement domain. The CWI measures whether children and youth are more connected to their community in social institutions by increases in college graduation rates, modest increases in high school graduation rates, higher increases in prekindergarten enrollment, rates of voting in presidential elections and the rate of youth not participating in school or work (the last two indicators either stayed the same as the baseline or decreased slightly).
  • There has been a slight improvement in the Educational Attainment domain over the 37 years of study, measured by the combined index of reading and mathematics test scores from 100 in 1975 to 104.3 in 2012.
  • The Social Relationships domain decreased from 1976 to 1997, primarily due to increases in the rate of children living in single-parent families.
  • There was an increased trend in suicide rates for children and youth ages 10-19 during the late 1980s, and a decline in religious participation, which led to large declines in the Emotional/Spiritual Well-Being domain.
  • Obesity rates contributed to the decline in the Health domain from 1975-2009. There have been modest improvements since 2009, but it is still considerably lower than the base line value.

Overall child well-being went down in 2012 at 99.7.  Since 1975, child well-being overall has been reduced with the high point of the index at 113 in 2000 and the low point at 89.9 in 1983. The index is an important tool in demonstrating the areas of improvements we have seen as well as the areas that require more attention, including support from policymakers. In order to achieve positive outcomes for children and families it is essential for policymakers to prioritize and invest in the domains that lead to child well-being.

For more information about the Child and Youth Well-Being Index, click here.

For complementary information on the importance of child well-being, please read Raising the Bar: Child Welfare’s Shift Toward Well-Being and our report on Supporting Early Healthy Development

Posted In: Well-Being, Data

Why Policy for Results?

· Natasya Gandana

CSSP believes policymaking should begin with the concrete results we want to achieve and that using reliable data leads to better decisions and ultimately to improved outcomes for children, families and communities. We call that policy platform PolicyforResults

In 2013 we expanded, refreshed and restructured the website, which provides data, holds hundreds of resources and highlights our public policy agenda. is a streamlined and modern tool that features strategies, funding resources, policy papers, briefs, blogs and more authored by CSSP and other experts. The goal is to use the site to advance the policy field's knowledge of equity and create more results-based resources that lead to action.

Posted In: Data

Measuring Opportunity: The Opportunity Index

· Natasya Gandana

The release of the 2013-2014 Opportunity Index findings show positive trends overall, with a modest improvement in the average opportunity score of 2.6 percent since 2010. Other significant highlights include: 26 states and Washington, DC improved their opportunity scores, a decline in the unemployment rate nationwide, increased access to internet in all 50 states and Washington, DC, and a decrease in violent crime in 44 states. However, only two states, Connecticut and New Mexico, saw statistically significant declines in their opportunity scores between 2011 and 2013. Most states improved or maintained their scores in the “jobs and local economy” and “education” categories, while the weakest progress was found within the “community health” and “civic life” categories.

Overall, states with the highest scores have demonstrated strong investments in their residents through education and job attainment and have maintained a strong commitment to improving opportunity for all.

 Among state rankings:

  • In opportunity score, Vermont ranked highest at 65.9, while Nevada ranked lowest at 37.9
  • In economy, North Dakota ranked highest at 64.86, while Mississippi ranked lowest at 37.47
  • In education, New Jersey ranked highest at 63.39, while Nevada ranked lowest at 25.91
  • In community, Vermont ranked highest at 74.88, while Nevada ranked lowest at 42.81

 The District of Columbia experienced the most significant changes in terms of positive growth in jobs and local economy and education. DC experienced consistent improvements in variables within these categories, including an increase in wages and a significant improvement of 3.9 percent in preschool attendance. Most importantly, DC experienced a decrease in income inequality over the past three years and is the only state to do so. Additionally, DC demonstrated a 4.2 percent increase in the percentage of the population with an associate’s degree or higher, which is almost double the increase of any other state. One notable finding in DC however, shows that the percentage of 3 and 4-year olds enrolled in preschool is greater than the percentage of students who graduate high school in four years.

 The Opportunity Index provides policymakers and community leaders with information to advance opportunity-related issues, to advocate for positive change, and to track progress over time. It allows policymakers and leaders to identify areas for improvement and to gauge progress over time. Developed by Measure of America and Opportunity Nation, the Opportunity Index was created in an effort to redefine the national conversation regarding the definition of “opportunity” and the American Dream.

 Additionally, the Index highlights the increasing importance of geography and its impact on individual opportunity as it relates to poverty and mobility. The general consensus maintains that through hard work and ambition, anyone can succeed in the United States and obtain the American dream. However, the opportunity index demonstrates why that is no longer the case. “Personal responsibility” is weighing in at a smaller amount than it used to. Enrolling in college or finding a job can be difficult if there are no affordable colleges or available jobs nearby. Increasingly, a person’s zip code can predetermine opportunity and success, and the index is a step towards proving that it shouldn’t have to. 

 For a more in-depth analysis of the findings, please click here.

Posted In: Results, Data
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