February 26, 2018

Building Blocks Podcast: Advancing Opportunity through Cross Sector Partnerships and Data

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Dr. Tiffany Manuel and Laurel Blatchford recording from Enterprise's headquarters in Columbia, Maryland.

From 2009 to 2014, 95 out of 100 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas experienced economic growth, but only in 8 of these areas did that growth translate into higher median wages and rising employment, according to the Brookings Institution. It’s not breaking news that America faces an opportunity gap, however, recent studies have identified new evidence of our nation’s growing inequality.

Intergenerational mobility has experienced a significant decline, meaning the probability of ending where you started has gone up, and the probability of moving up from where you started has gone down, regardless of educational background. In 2015, a team of Harvard economists presented new evidence of this, finding that that there has been a large decline in the rate of upward mobility across successive U.S. birth cohorts, from 92% of children born in 1940 earning more than their parents to only half of children born in 1984. The rates of upward economic mobility are even lower for low-income children of color born in high-poverty neighborhoods. 

Despite this reality, many Americans believe that if people work hard and make good choices, the pathways to bettering their lives are easily accessible. However, access to opportunity is determined by more than just individual will power. Acknowledging the structural, systemic, or spatial barriers that exist in society identifies the full range of factors that can significantly influence the outcomes people can achieve.

The notion that success relies solely on individual motivation and work ethic is a narrative we are far too comfortable with, despite evidence to the contrary. Research from the Frameworks Institute has demonstrated that “public thinking about economic success and mobility is dominated by individualism, a model that attributes economic success, struggle, and failure to personal choice and willpower.” We need to change that narrative .

On this month’s episode of Building Blocks, I’ve invited Dr. Tiffany Manuel, Enterprise’s Vice President of Knowledge, Impact and Strategy, to talk about Enterprise’s most recent effort to promote and facilitate a constructive national dialogue on opportunity creation. 

Without understanding the pathways that lead to desired outcomes, our industry does not consistently invest in or advocate for the infrastructure needed to improve people’s lives. To do this effectively, we need a framework that measures opportunity in a more holistic way—one that acknowledges the dynamic interaction between people, their homes, their neighborhoods and the policies and systems that shape their access to opportunity pathways.

That framework is Opportunity360. Our intention for the platform is that it help identify the strengths and challenges in a place and catalyzes more stakeholders, better housing investment decisions, and more targeted community development interventions. 

No place is without opportunity, we just need to identify the right data that broadens the conversation and seeks to understand, measure, build and evaluate the critical pathways to improved outcomes. Learn more about the opportunity pathways and outcomes on the third episode of Building Blocks and how Opportunity360 can guide, prioritize and sharpen all of our investment, solutions, and policy work.  

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