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Mapping the Loss of Opportunity in California

Despite Americans’ famous optimism and faith in the American dream, poverty researchers have clearly demonstrated that long-term outcomes for children are highly correlated to where a child grows up. Major indicators found at the neighborhood level – such as health, educational attainment, poverty rates, and family structure – have become strong predictors of a child’s outcomes when she reaches adulthood.

Following the precedent set by other mapping projects, researchers at Next Generation used Census data to map key indicators that significantly affect a child’s life trajectory – her chances to climb out of poverty, attain high levels of education, and avoid chronic health conditions.  

We invite you to explore your neighborhood by finding your California ZIP code and taking a deeper look at the indicators that affect life outcomes for children in those communities. 

Implicit in these indicators is the assumption that communities are integrated environments in which a child’s future is linked directly to the opportunities – or limitations – that exist for the adults that surround them. Similar in focus to a “Two Generations” approach to child and family poverty, our purpose for building this map is to open up the conversation in California to a sampling of major indicators of child’s environment which are outside of their control, but critical to their overall well-being. 

  • To get a sense of these indicators at a local level in communities across California, we have also developed interactive graphics for a series of communities, including Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.   
  • For more information on the indicators used to create these interactive maps, check out a full description here »


Source for Low Birth Weight Infants: California Department of Public Health

Source for Asthma Hospitalizations: California Office of Statewide Planning and Development

Source for All Others Indicators: 2011 American Community Survey, 5-year Estimates, tables S1701 (Poverty Status), DP02 (Single Family Households), and S1501 (Educational Attainment for populations 25 years or older)

Note: All poverty data are based on populations determined by the Census Bureau to live at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Threshold (FPL). A family of two adults and two children is considered to be in poverty when their gross annual household income is $23,283 or less. Child poverty rates are determined by the number of children living in households in which the total family income falls below the FPL. For more information see    

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