Tracking the State of Opportunity (2010)

The State of Opportunity in America, 2010 documents America’s progress in protecting opportunity for everyone who lives here. By analyzing government data across a range of indicators, this update of our 2006, 2007, and 2009 reports assesses the state of opportunity for our nation as a whole, as well as for different groups within our society.State of Opportunity Report

Opportunity is one of our country’s most cherished ideals and one of our most valuable national assets. The promise of opportunity inspires each generation of Americans–regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, or national origin–to strive to reach his or her full potential. Fulfilling this promise not only benefits each of us individually, but also society as a whole. We must therefore ensure that the doors of opportunity are open to all Americans as we work to move forward together.

Access the Report

The Opportunity Agenda views opportunity through the lens of our most deeply held values: Security, Equality, Mobility, Voice, Redemption, and Community. Our analysis indicates that different American communities often experience starkly different levels of opportunity. The report examines key indicators of opportunity, organized by these values.

At-A-Glance
The State of Opportunity Report
2010 Update

You can also view the indicators, organized by value, here:

Security
Equality
Mobility
Redemption
Voice
Community

For suggestions on how best to discuss the report, click here.

Using the Data

The data from this report have been compiled primarily from federal sources and the report’s presentation has been designed to be worked directly into fact sheets, talking points, reports, and other tools.  A few notes:

  • As described above, this report measures opportunity through the lens of six core American values: Security, Equality, Mobility, Redemption, Voice, and Community. While each of the values cut across multiple issue areas, some advocates will find that those indicators relevant to them are concentrated in one or two value areas.  For example, indicators relating to criminal justice are located in the Redemption section, but the Equality section also highlights ongoing disparities in the incarceration of populations of color.
  • In most instances, the report examined how the nation fared, both overall and for groups, by using the most recent year for which government data were available, often from 2007 to 2008.  However, for each indicator, the report clearly identifies the year and source for the data.
  • The online version of the report will be updated throughout the year as new numbers come in, and indicators will be added as needed.
  • The data and policy recommendations can be used to support and reinforce local information and action. For example, the data regarding wealth and income could provide national context to a local living wage campaign. Similarly, the policy recommendations could be a useful tool for state legislators looking to expand opportunity.
  • Because we evaluated each indicator over a one year period (the last 12-months for which data is available), and small positive or negative changes are highly likely to occur, we considered a change in the overall rate or the rate for any group to be “significant” if it reached or exceeded 2%.
  • For more information on the methodology used, click here.

Our Assessment of Opportunity for 2010

Examination of various indicators finds that access to full and equal opportunity is still very much a mixed reality. The nation has made great strides in increasing opportunity in some areas and for some communities, but many groups of Americans are being left behind in ways that hard work and personal achievement alone cannot address.

Key findings of this year’s report include:

  • Bankruptcy: The number of bankruptcies increased by a remarkable 28.9%, with 968,000 in the first two quarters of 2008, as opposed to 751,000 in the first two quarters of 2007.
  • Food Security: Many families and individuals are increasingly experiencing food insecurity – defined as living in hunger or the fear of starvation. Food security for households decreased by 3.9%, with 3.7 million fewer households having food security. Food security for individuals decreased by 4.8%, with 10.4 million fewer households having food security. And, food security decreased for children by 6.7%, with 3.7 million fewer children having food security.
  • Wage Gap:The wage gap between men and women has remained relatively constant, with women’s wages at 76.8% of men’s. For Asian American women, the gap decreased by 3.5%, with Asian American women’s median wage now at 92.5% of the median wage for men of all races. For African American women, the gap increased by 1.4%, with African American women’s median wage 67.4% of the median wage for men of all races. And, for Latinas, the gap increased by 2.7%, with Latinas now earning 57.4% of the median wage for men of all races.
  • College Affordability: The cost of college, at both public and private institutions, has increased dramatically in the past 10 years. At public colleges and universities, the cost of tuition, fees, and room and board increased 36.9%, from $10,471 to $14,333, between 1998-1999 and 2008-2009. At private colleges and universities, there was a 23.8% increase, from $27,580 to $34,132, during the same time period.
  • Voting Rates:The 2008 elections marked a major increase in voting rates for people of color, as compared to the most recent Presidential election, in 2004. While the overall voting rate remained relatively flat, at 58.2%, the African American voting rate increased by 8%, from 56.3% to 60.8%, the Asian American voting rate increased by 7.7%, from 29.8% to 32.1%, and the Latino voting rate increased by 12.9%, from 28% to 31.6%. In comparison, 18-24 year olds, a closely-watched demographic, increased 5.7%, to 44.3%.

Opportunity is one of our country’s most cherished ideals and one of our most valuable national assets. The promise of opportunity inspires each generation of Americans–regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, or national origin–to strive to reach his or her full potential. Fulfilling this promise not only benefits each of us individually, but also society as a whole. We must therefore ensure that the doors of opportunity are open to all Americans as we work to move forward together.