The Opportunity Atlas

The Opportunity Atlas

Mission: To help policy makers develop scalable policy solutions that empower families across the United States to rise out of poverty and achieve better life outcomes.

Background: In 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau, in collaboration with Harvard economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren and John Friedman of Brown University, released social mobility research and a mapping tool that shows average outcomes in adulthood of people who grew up in each census tract (small geographic units of about four thousand people) in the United States. For each tract, Chetty, Hendren, Friedman, et al estimated children's earnings distributions, incarceration rates, and other outcomes in adulthood by parental income, race, and gender, enabling them to trace the roots of outcomes such as poverty and incarceration back to the neighborhoods in which children grew up. The resulting dataset allows researchers to see not just where the rich and poor currently live, but whether children in a given area tend to grow up to become rich or poor, and can help policy makers target their interventions to specific communities and neighborhoods. 

Outstanding Web Features: The tool prompts first-time users to explore the dataset by starting with a question (e.g., How much do kids who grew up where I did earn on average?). Users can also zoom in on a specific location or census tract and explore aggregate data for that tract such as neighborhood characteristics (median rent, job growth rate), household income, and incarceration rate. Users can also switch to a "compare outcomes" mode that allows them to see the differences in outcomes for any two tracts. In addition to exploring outcomes data by census tract, users can overlay their own data onto the map, and/or export the dataset for further analysis. Last but not least, users can explore "Stories from the Atlas," download a handy guide, learn more about the methodology behind the site, and/or check out an FAQ.

Opportunity Insights:
Main Office:
1280 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
Location: National


April 25, 2018