Geographies of Opportunity

Commentary - published on

The Social Science Research Council released its report “Geographies of Opportunity” last week focusing on key indicators of human development among U.S. Congressional Districts (114th Congress). Florida, the third largest state in the nation, placed only two in the top 100, both located in geographies incorporating portions of Palm Beach and Broward Counties. There are 436 congressional districts in the United States.

Geographies of Opportunity is the Council’s fourth national-level report in ranking congressional district’s comparative performance in three areas: health, education and earnings. The indicators are indexed to reflect outcomes associated with citizens’ well being. Rather than answering the question of how the economy is doing, the report addresses how people are doing.

Broadening the evaluation threshold to the top 175 congressional districts made room for three more from Florida to bring the total to a disconcerting achievement of five. Which state’s congressional districts dominated the rankings of well being? California placed nine districts in the top 50 and New York followed with eight. Texas placed three in the top 50, six in the top 100 and 14 in the top 175. Keep in mind all U.S. congressional districts are roughly the same size with 725,000 people creating an “apples-to-apples” comparison.

Among the key findings:

  • The report demonstrates the gaps in human development within states are bigger than the gaps between states.
  • There are more than 5.5 million youth (ages 16-24) who are out of work and out of school.
  • In more than half of all congressional districts (222 out of 436), median personal earning fall between $20,000 and $30,000.

This is exactly the type of analysis that should be benchmarks for long-term economic development initiatives. Job creation and average wage are means to the end, not the end itself. It’s time to change the game.

Download the report here.

Learn more about the non-partisan Social Science Research Council here.