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Does where you were born decide how successful you will be? That’s what researchers at Harvard University are trying to answer with the “Opportunity Atlas” – a map that uses census data to track economic success from birth. The project takes a focused look at outcomes for low-income black children in Detroit. David Williams is the policy director for Opportunity Insights at Harvard University. He was previously a senior advisor to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Williams tells WDET’s Eli Newman that certain neighborhoods in Detroit provide better chances for success than others.
On divergent outcomes within Detroit
When you actually zoom in on the city, we’re seeing a lot of difference within the city itself. Especially when you look at results for African-American kids, you can see the differences that we think is the more useful way of using the tool.
When you look at several neighborhoods in Northwest Detroit, especially in the Grandmont-Rosedale neighborhood, the outcomes for low-income black men are actually better than the outcome for low-income black men in general across the country. That’s an especially important message when we think about all the attention that downtown and midtown sometimes get. It’s an important point that there are good places for low-income black men and women in the neighborhoods as well.
What makes some neighborhoods in Detroit better than others
That’s part of the question that we want to dive deeper into. We know that there are a lot of factors that correlate to higher opportunity, but we don’t precisely what is causing these changes.
Grandmont-Rosedale has been a more stable community for the past 20 years. You see less of vacancies in those places. You see higher median incomes and a stronger middle-class in those places too.
How the Opportunity Atlas can be used in Detroit
When we see there might be hot spots for a disproportionate amount of kids who grew up in a certain neighborhood are ending up in jail, that might be a place you really want to target. Those early interventions.
Similarly, you might also see places where there’s teen pregnancy. Again, I think the [Detroit] health department has been looking at this issue for a long time, and that might help them target these issues as well.