Opportunity Nation’s Index in Your Inbox: Looking at the Economy

The Opportunity Index uses 20 indicators across four dimensions to provide users with a numerical measurement of opportunity across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The four dimensions of community well-being are: the economy, education, health, and community. To better understand how each dimension and its indicators help to craft this unique score, the Forum will take a deep dive into each, identifying its impact on opportunity, implications for change, and policies that could help communities move forward.

The first dimension we will explore is the economy. The indicators included in the economy dimension are: jobs, wages, poverty, income inequality, assets, affordable housing, and internet access. The correlation between the economy and opportunity seems pretty clear; a robust economy supports increased wages and a strong labor force. But what does it mean when the economy scores fall; how does that impact opportunity? Lower economy scores may mean fewer jobs, decreased wages, increased poverty, less income equality, fewer assets and affordable housing, and fewer homes with internet access. The implications for this also could lead to poorer health outcomes among residents and slower and weaker economic growth, which may also correlate to higher rates of violence and crime. It is important to note that from 2016 to 2018 the economy score has steadily increased. More than half of states saw a decrease in poverty rates and unemployment and greater housing affordability; however, over half of the states saw a reduction in access to banking opportunities.

There are thousands of organizations – large, small, and in between – across the country that focus on various aspects of the economy. In addition to introducing you to each of the dimensions and indicators that make up the Opportunity Index, we’ll also introduce you to organizations which are part of the Opportunity Nation Coalition, that set out to address various issues within each dimension and indicators. For this issue, we’ll start with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), which works to reduce recidivism and increase employment. CEO provides people returning from prison with paid employment, skills training, and ongoing career support. To offer work experience, CEO operates transitional work crews that provide supplemental indoor/outdoor maintenance and neighborhood beautification services to more than 40 customers across the United States.

CEO guarantees every participant who completes a one-week job-readiness orientation up to four days a week of transitional work on a crew and daily pay – a critical asset during an important time.

In addition to work and daily pay, CEO provides a robust set of wraparound vocational support services, including job coaching to help find full-time employment. Once participants acquire full-time positions, CEO continues to work with them for a year to ensure they have the support they need to grow in their careers.

Stay tuned for the next issue, where we will explore the education dimension and highlight an organization that demonstrates how our dimensions and indicators come to life.