What Does Your Neighborhood Say About Your Chances for Success? [MAP]

Click the audio player above to listen to this conversation. 

Opportunity Insights

This map of Southeast Michigan from the Opportunity Atlas tracks recent household income for people born between 1978 and 1983 to low-income parents. The red areas represent people who grew up in low-income households and stayed low-income. The bluer areas show regions where people who grew up in low-income households made more money than their parents.

Opportunity Insights

David Williams, policy director at Opportunity Insights and former senior advisor to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

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.

Interview Highlights

Opportunity Insights

According to Williams, Northwest Detroit presents better opportunities for economic success for black children of low-income parents. The northwest trend continues outside of Detroit’s borders to suburban Oak Park, Southfield and Farmington Hills. Many of the gray areas outside of Detroit do not enough black children to estimate outcomes.

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

Opportunity Insights

Teen pregnancies in Detroit occur at a higher rate than some of its suburban communities. The teen pregnancy rate on Detroit’s east side is nearly double than the rate on the west side.

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.
Opportunity Insights

Most children in Southeast Michigan sampled in the Opportunity Atlas have stayed in the same metro areas as their parents. A more detailed map shows that a higher percentage have stayed within Wayne and Macomb Counties than in Oakland and Washtenaw Counties.



Image credit: Opportunity Insights

About the Author

Eli Newman


Just a small guy with big ideas. Sharing content and culture at WDET 101.9 FM.

eli.newman@wdet.org   Follow @other_eli

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