Child development and well-being is influenced not only by a child’s home environment but also by the neighborhood in which he/she lives. Neighborhoods vary in the resources they provide, such as in school quality, parks and other public spaces, child care centers, and health care availability. Additionally, poverty rates, adult educational attainment, and unemployment levels in a neighborhood can affect the development of every child in the area. Studies have found that neighborhood opportunities directly impact a child’s verbal abilities, health, and education. Neighborhood opportunities in early life have long-term impacts too, in increased quality of college education, marriage and childbearing, and earning potential.
Diversitydatakids.org and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity compiled data for the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the United States to create the Child Opportunity Index (COI). This index uses 19 different measures of resources and stressors to create a relative scale of neighborhood opportunity ranging from very-low opportunity to very-high opportunity. There are five classifications total, with roughly 20% in each category. Researchers divided the indicators in to three categories: educational opportunity; health and environmental opportunity; and social and economic opportunity. Some of the included measures are: student poverty rates in local schools; proficiency measures; proximity to early childhood education centers, health facilities, healthy food, and parks; high school graduation rate; adult educational attainment; and poverty, unemployment, and public assistance rates.
The report found the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area among the worst performing cities for black and Hispanic children. The area was ranked second-to-last as the worst area for neighborhood opportunities available to black children, with 59.7% of black children living in very-low opportunity neighborhoods. In the same measure for Hispanic children, the report finds 46.9% live in very-low opportunity neighborhoods, ranking 91st out of 100 cities. Black children are 6.9 times more likely to live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods than white children; Hispanic children are 5.4 times more likely to live in these neighborhoods, compared to white children.
In order to ensure equal opportunities for all children, Nebraska needs to address the vast racial divides in neighborhood opportunity by working to desegregate neighborhoods and creating equal community resources in areas that are very-low and low opportunity.
Take a look at our Index of Race and Opportunity for more information on racial inequality for children in Nebraska. For further information on what you can do to address racial inequality, check out The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 7 Steps to Advance Race Equity.