Abstract: The Child Opportunity Index 2.0: A New Index of Neighborhood Opportunity for All US Neighborhoods (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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The Child Opportunity Index 2.0: A New Index of Neighborhood Opportunity for All US Neighborhoods

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Clemens Noelke, PhD, Research Scientist, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Nancy McArdle, MA, Senior Research Analyst, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Mikyung Baek, Senior Research Associate, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Nick Huntington, PhD, Research Scientist, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Rebecca Huber, MA, Research Associate, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Ph.D., Samuel F. and Rose B. Gingold Professor of Human Development and Social Policy; Director, Institute for Child Youth and Family Policy, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Erin Hardy, MA, Early Childhood Research Director, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Background and Purpose

The Child Opportunity Index (COI) 2.0 is a new composite index of neighborhood opportunity. Unlike opportunity metrics capturing long-term outcomes of past neighborhood conditions, COI 2.0 is based on 29 contemporaneous predictors of healthy child development covering three domains: education, health/environment, and social/economic. COI 2.0 is based on COI 1.0, which has been used in academic studies and reports by academics and professionals across the US. COI 1.0 used 2010 data for the 100 largest metro areas and only allowed for neighborhood comparisons within metro areas. COI 2.0 uses comparable data for all US census tracts for 2010 and 2015. In this presentation, we will survey the construction and explore the predictive validity of the Child Opportunity Index 2.0


Data on 29 component indicators was collected from multiple sources. Education domain indicators capture the quality of learning context from pre-kindergarten to high school. Health and environment indicators measure exposure to toxins and access to healthy environments. Socio-economic indicators capture economic opportunities and resources. Indicators were transformed into z-scores, combined into three domain scores (education, health/environment, social/economic), and domain scores were combined into one overall score. Weights were used when combining indicators and domain scores, reflecting how strongly each indicator or domain score predicts four different health and socioeconomic outcomes.

To explore the predictive validity of the COI, we used additional outcome data not used in the construction of the COI, taken from the CDC, 500 Cities Project, and Opportunity Atlas. We examined a total of 14 different outcomes, including census tract-level data on life expectancy, ten health conditions, and three indicators of intergenerational mobility. We regressed census tract-level outcomes on COI domain and overall scores and compared the percent variance explained by COI 2.0 and two other metrics of neighborhood opportunity, an indicator of intergenerational economic mobility taken from the Opportunity Atlas and an index of neighborhood socioeconomic status.


Across the 14 outcomes examined, the median R-squared statistic was 55%, i.e., the COI explains more than half of the variation for the majority of outcomes. The COI 2.0 overall score is a better predictor of outcomes than the three domain scores or any of the component indicators illustrating the benefit of pooling information from many indicators. It explains as much or more variation in outcomes compared to two competitor metrics of neighborhood opportunity/conditions.


The COI 2.0 is a new tool for social policy professionals across the US who want to better understand the neighborhood conditions children face in the communities they serve. Given past uses of COI 1.0, we expect that COI 2.0 will be broadly used across in the social policy space by academics studying the role of neighborhoods in children’s outcomes, to survey community needs and assets, to analyze and highlight local inequity in access to opportunity, for strategic planning, resource allocation, and in-forming place-based interventions.