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Alabama, State of InOpportunity

by: mooncat

Thu Jan 12, 2012 at 09:42:30 AM CST

Alabama Opportunity IndexAlabama ranks 47th on the Opportunity Index.  Thank God for Arkansas, Mississippi, West Virginia and Nevada -- they're all that's between us and the very bottom of the opportunity barrel.

A product of Opportunity Nation ... "we believe that the zip code you’re born into shouldn’t determine your destiny" ... the Opportunity Index measures indicators at the county and state levels that contribute to economic opportunity and mobility. It scores states based on three factors: economy, education and community.  Alabama ranks well below the national average in all three, indicating a low level of economic mobility and opportunity.

Key contributing factors to Alabama's poor opportunity ranking are high poverty rate, low family income, low graduation rate, low education level, high rate of violent crime, too many teenagers neither working nor in school and not enough primary care doctors.  When you add it all up, it means that if you're born poor in Alabama, you're more likely to die the same way, because there aren't many opportunities to move up the economic ladder here -- praying to have been born in Madison or Shelby Counties is not practical for most kids.

Upward MobilityYou may say that even being 47th in the nation is not so bad, because America is the Land of Opportunity, right?  Well, yes, we used to be the Land of Oportunity, but now the United States has fallen behind Canada and most European countries in terms of upward mobility from one generation to the next.

42% of American men with fathers who were in the bottom fifth of the earning curve stay there. Meanwhile, only a quarter of Danes and Swedes and 30% of Britons born into the lower-income bracket will die in that same bracket.

Think about that.  A poor kid's chances of moving up in America are significantly less than those of a poor kid living in Britain.  That is shocking and shameful.  Let me remind you that they still have lords, ladies and even a monarch in Britain.  We had a revolution to get out from under that class system yet somehow we've ended up with an even more rigidly defined class system that stifles opportunity.
It's even worse in states like Alabama, that are pulling the national average down.  If you want your kids to have the opportunity to build a better life than you have, you need to make some demands on policymakers.  Every time some Alabama politician puts forth a new policy, ask if it creates opportunity or stifles it.  Here's a checklist:
  • Will it create jobs?
  • Will it strengthen communities?
  • Will it help kids stay in school?
  • Will it increase access to health care?
  • Will it reduce hunger?
If what's being proposed won't do any of these things, it isn't going to do much to close the opportunity gap in Alabama, no matter what glowing language our local politicians wrap it in.  Demand action on real problems -- like lack of opportunity -- not imaginary ones politicians dream up to make themselves look good.
mooncat :: Alabama, State of InOpportunity
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