Opportunity varies widely across our country.  Where one grows up, the income of their parents, their race and ethnicity — all of these factors can contribute to a person’s economic prospects and potential social mobility as an adult.  Researchers from Harvard, Brown, and the U.S. Census Bureau have attempted to measure the extent to which opportunity differs across geographies and between socioeconomic groups. They analyzed anonymous data from 20.5 million Americans born between 1978 and 1983 to compare the income rank of their childhood to an array of factors in their adulthood, some 30 years later.  To achieve their results, the researchers combined anonymized data from the Decennial Censuses of 2000 and 2010, the American Community Surveys between 2005 and 2015, and  federal income tax returns for 1989, 1994, 1995, and 1998-2015.  Then, they took the results of their analysis and created a rich and interactive map, providing data and comparison down to the census tract level.

The Opportunity Atlas gives users a variety of ways to explore the data and analysis results.  To help you get started, you might consider questions like:

  • How much, on average, do people who grew up where I did earn as adults?
  • What percent of people still live in the city or neighborhood they grew up in?
  • How do the outcomes differ by race, ethnicity, and gender?

Or you could take a broader look and visualize the disparity across a city or region, as shown on the screenshot of the Atlanta metro area below:

Screenshot of The Opportunity Atlas tool showing the Atlanta region.

For those looking to explore deeper, the data is available for download along with the summary methods and the full paper detailing the research.