State of Opportunity Equality Indicator Update

Recent analysis of government economic data by The Opportunity Agenda finds that national measures of opportunity are in decline and that unequal barriers to opportunity facing women and people of color do not rise or fall with the overall economy. A report analyzing updated equality indicators from The State of Opportunity in America concludes that economic recovery efforts must address racial and gender gaps in opportunity, as well as overall national indicators in employment, wages, poverty, and education.

Alan Jenkins, Executive Director of The Opportunity Agenda, makes a compelling and articulate argument when he notes, “Promoting greater and more equal opportunity must become an important and explicit consideration in future public investments and programs. Opportunity doesn’t just happen, it requires bold leadership, innovative ideas, and public attention.”

Starkly different levels of opportunity continue in some communities—trends that diverge from those of the broader economic crisis:

• While the overall unemployment rate increased 2.6% from December 2008 to December 2009, the increase in unemployment was significantly higher for African Americans and Latinos. African American unemployment increased 4.1%, and Latino unemployment increased 3.5%.

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• At the end of 2008, women were 20% more likely than men to live in poverty. Yet, this staggering gap is actually a slight improvement from 2007, when women were 24% more likely than men to live in poverty.

• Racial and ethnic g aps in educational attainment, a key tool to surviving an economic downturn, persisted in 2008. African American young people were 55% as likely as white young people to have obtained a bachelor’s degree, and Latino young people were 33.3% as likely as white young people to have obtained a bachelor’s degree.

The analysis of these indicators of opportunity makes the case for the use of an Opportunity Impact Statement process to evaluate public expenditures, noting that all levels of government can and should use this new policy tool as a requirement for publicly funded or authorized projects, especially those tied to economic recovery, to prioritize equitable job creation, small business development, fair lending, and other practices that expand opportunity for all communities.

See the analysis of the updated indicators below and for the full report, visit http://opportunityagenda.org/stateofopportunity/indicators/equality.