Seattle’s Childhood Opportunity Landscape Could Use Some Cultivation

Too many children, who represent the city’s future workforce, live in neighborhoods where conditions make it hard to thrive, study finds
Updated: Wed, 01/22/2020 - 11:58
 
 
  • Too many children, who represent the city’s future workforce, live in neighborhoods where conditions make it hard to thrive, study finds

The Seattle metro area is not exactly excelling in ensuring optimal conditions for shaping the health and development of children overall, a new study finds, and the situation is even more dire in the case of children of color ― results that should be of interest to area employers looking to develop a future workforce.

Seattle earned a mediocre score of 66, on a scale of 100, in terms of childhood opportunity, with Bakersfield, California, ranking at the bottom of the pack by comparison, with a childhood-opportunity score of 20. Madison, Wisconsin, ranked first in the study, with a score of 83; followed by San Jose, California, with a score of 82.

The picture for Seattle’s black and Hispanic children is even more grim, according to the study, conducted by researchers at Brandeis University and dubbed the Childhood Opportunity Index 2.0 (COI 2.0). Some 41% of black children and nearly 37% of Hispanic children in the Seattle area live in low-opportunity neighborhoods, compared with about 12% of white children.

Neighborhood opportunity is predictive how well children will do in the future, according to the study, and more disturbingly, is predictive of life expectancy ― with Seattle having a six-year gap in life expectancy between very low and very high opportunity neighborhoods.

Nationally black children are 7.6 times and Hispanic children 5.3 times more likely than white children to live in lower-opportunity neighborhoods, while the majority of white and Asian/Pacific Islander children live in higher-opportunity neighborhoods, the COI 2.0 report found.

The COI 2.0 study assessed thousands of neighborhoods in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas by examining 29 key factors. The factors are designed to measure how children experience their neighborhoods and cover five broad areas: educational, health, environmental, social and economic conditions.

“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,” a summary of the study’s findings states. “However, far too many children in the U.S. live in neighborhoods that lack these conditions.”

The study’s lead researcher, Brandeis University’s Dr. Dolores Acevedo Garcia, says the results of the COI 2.0 study are important because they identify child-opportunity gaps, which can be used to make policy changes that foster more equitable neighborhood conditions, allowing more children to thrive. It’s worth noting that it is those children who represent Seattle’s future entrepreneurs and workforce as well.

“The Child Opportunity Index shows we’re missing the mark for children of color in too many communities,” says La June Montgomery Tabron, president and chief executive officer of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “I’d like to see leaders across the country — at every level and in every sector — tap into this data and work together to make every child’s neighborhood one of equitable opportunity.”

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