Most Black and Hispanic Children in the U.S. Live in Neighborhoods with Low Opportunity

Providing All Children With Neighborhoods of Opportunity Could Impact Racial Disparity in the Homeless Population

“Neighborhoods matter for children’s health and development,” write the authors of the new “The Geography of Child Opportunity: Why Neighborhoods Matter for Equity” report.

“All children in the United States should live in neighborhoods with access to good schools, healthy foods, safe parks and playgrounds, clean air, safe housing and living-wage jobs for the adults in their lives. However, far too many children in the U.S. live in neighborhoods that lack these conditions.”

A new report from the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy at Brandeis University shows that most white children in the U.S. live in neighborhoods of opportunity while most Black and Hispanic children live in neighborhoods with low opportunity.

In fact, across the 100 largest metros, the majority of white (65%) and Asian (62%) children live in high- or very high-opportunity neighborhoods. But the majority of Black (67%) and Hispanic children (58%) live in very low- or low-opportunity neighborhoods. Black children are 7.6 times and Hispanic children 5.3 times more likely to live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods than white children.

Children growing up in neighborhoods in the United States with very low- and low-opportunity may be more at risk for homelessness at some point in their childhood, young adulthood or adult lives. The lack of access to education, safe housing and living wage jobs can all lead towards the path of homelessness.

Without access to affordable and quality childcare, parents who are able to find living wage jobs may not be able to keep those jobs. Without a high school diploma, let alone opportunities to attend 2- and 4-year colleges and vocational training programs, when children grow up, how will they find living wage jobs?

If families are restricted housing opportunity and only able afford unsafe homes in very low-and low-opportunity neighborhoods, what ramifications does that have around then barriers to access healthcare for preventable conditions such as asthma and lead poisoning?

When we look at the racial disparity within the homeless population in New Jersey as reported in the NJCounts 2019 report, we realize work to not only address the current disparate and stark numbers around racial disparity. But we can also examine how opening up housing opportunity can work to ensure that this disparity decreases and continues to decrease.

The researchers created a Child Opportunity Index that analyzed 72,000 neighborhoods or census tracts in the U.S. The index measures a range of neighborhood conditions that shape child outcomes, including the quality of early education centers and schools, high school graduation rates, the number of adults with high-skill jobs, poverty and employment rates, air pollution levels, housing vacancy and home ownership rates.  Each neighborhood was assigned an opportunity level: very low, low, moderate, high, or very high opportunity.

Read an NPR article about the report here.

The Opportunity Starts at Home multisector affordable homes campaign’s Racial Equity and Housing Fact sheet provides another resource and additional background information.  It is available here.