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Opportunity by the Numbers: Powerful New Data Tools and Data-Driven Strategies for Advocacy

Making adequate investments in the healthy development of young children is critical for their future well-being. It is important for young children to have access to certain resources and supports like high quality childcare, consistent healthcare, and nutritious meals. These are the basic resources that are necessary for a young child to thrive, but we know that many children lack equitable access to these foundational necessities. Additionally, where they live often influences whether their access is equitable.

In October, we invited experts from the diversitydatakids.org project to learn more about how data can be used as a powerful advocacy tool to advance early childhood policy that provides all children with an equal opportunity to thrive. 

Erin Hardy from the NORC at the University of Chicago and Dr. Clemens Neolke from the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University shared more this research program and resources for advocates to use this valuable data.

Neighborhoods Matter 

Erin Hardy opened the webinar with an informative discussion about how neighborhoods influence outcomes when it comes to child’s health and development. The neighborhood you live in determines what resources are available to you. Having high quality data at the neighborhood level is critical for advancing policy that ensure all children have the resources they need. This is especially true for children facing “triple jeopardy” of family poverty, low neighborhood opportunities, and low availability of early childhood resources. Using a neighborhood-informed approach provides an opportunity to assess whether early childhood programs and services are reaching the right neighborhoods and children most in need. Datadiversitykids.org recently released a report examining five existing federal early childhood policies and programs to identify how neighborhood-informed policy levers can be used to improve access.

Neighborhood informed early childhood policy is a valuable tool for advancing race equity. Racial residential segregation is a systemic issue that affects children over and above other factors, like family poverty. In fact, neighborhoods are just as racially segregated regarding of income level. A neighborhood-informed strategy uses data to help highlight where these racial disparities exist.

Child Opportunity Index 2.0

Dr. Clemens Noelke, the lead architect of the Child Opportunity Index (COI) 2.0, introduced this tool and how it can be used to mobilize data to advance equity in early childhood policy. The COI is a metric based on 29 indicators across three domains – education, health and environment, and social and economic. Data is available on nearly every neighborhood in the county. Dr. Noelke walked through several examples of how the data showed disparities in child opportunity influenced by neighborhood conditions.  These differences can impact a child’s quality of everyday life and long-term development in area, like educational attainment and health.  

The COI can be used to monitor and compare neighborhoods based on the opportunities they provide for children. When compared to the individual indicators and other commonly used metrics, the COI is a better predictor of a child outcomes and captures multiple ways that neighbors influence outcomes

The COI can also be used to target investments to the children in low opportunity neighborhoods and support more equitable outcomes.

How can advocates use the COI?

The presenters ended the webinar with examples of how advocates might use the COI. They provided examples in early childhood education and child health to advance early childhood programs and policies. The COI has also been used for research to quantify community assets and needs, to raise awareness about inequities in neighborhood opportunity, and for place-based targeting of services and investments. The COI data is also directly available for download on the diversistydatakids.org website.


Additional Resources

Interactive maps: Mapping Child Opportunity. Dive right in or read about what you can do with the maps in this blog

Report: The geography of opportunity: Why neighborhoods matter for equity

Download data: The Child Opportunity Index 2.0 database

Methods report: The Child Opportunity Index 2.0 Technical Document 


Early childhood resources 

Report: Advancing racial equity through neighborhood-informed early childhood policies

Data story: Neighborhood preschool enrollment patterns by race and ethnicity

Data tool: Neighborhood preschool enrollment patterns: State equity data explorer 

Data story: Unequal neighborhood availability of Head Start 

Data tool: Unequal neighborhood availability of Head Start: State equity data explorer

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