The Child Opportunity Index

Improving neighborhood environments for children through community development and other interventions may help improve children’s health and reduce inequities in health.

A first step is to develop a population-level surveillance system of children’s neighborhood environments. This article presents the newly developed Child Opportunity Index for the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. The index examines the extent of racial/ethnic inequity in the distribution of children across levels of neighborhood opportunity. Researchers found that high concentrations of black and Hispanic children in the lowest-opportunity neighborhoods are pervasive across U.S. metropolitan areas. They also found that 40 percent of black and 32 percent of Hispanic children live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods within their metropolitan area, compared to 9 percent of white children. This inequity is greater in some metropolitan areas, especially those with high levels of residential segregation.

The Child Opportunity Index provides perspectives on child opportunity at the neighborhood and regional levels and can inform place-based community development interventions and non-place-based interventions that address inequities across a region. The index can also be used to meet new community data reporting requirements under the Affordable Care Act.