We will visit the country’s iconic cities—including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—to examine how the struggles of gentrification, escalating housing prices, and rising economic segregation play out on the ground.
After the crack epidemic of the 1980s, drugs were often associated with poor, urban, and predominately African American communities. In recent years, the opioid crisis has devastated white and largely middle-class suburban communities, often hitting small towns that have been on the losing end of a changing global economy. We will visit towns across the country—including those in Florida, Appalachia, and the Midwest—to examine how residents have grappled with the rapid rise in drug addiction.
The suburbs and their newer less-populated cousins—the so-called exurbs—are typically portrayed as upper-middle-class bedroom communities. And indeed they often are. But this stereotype also masks the challenges faced by some lower-income families living in these communities. Suburban life is expensive; cars are often financed with debt; exurban children are worried about their futures; and long commutes can strain family life. We’ll find out how these challenges being handled on the ground.
Neighborhoods define the opportunities that children have. Although many of the neighborhoods that provide widespread opportunities are very expensive, not all of them are. These “opportunity bargains,” which can be identified via the Opportunity Atlas, offer pathways for upward mobility while remaining affordable to working families. We’ll talk to residents to learn how these special neighborhoods make it all work.
Over the past 50 years, the United States has rapidly deindustrialized, with workers who were once working in factories, mines, and union jobs now either out of the labor force or in lower-paying service jobs. We will visit some of the iconic deindustrializing zones—like Detroit—as well as less-known zones in more than 20 states. From Michigan to Missouri to Massachusetts, we will talk to people who have seen their communities evolve, adapt, and succeed—and to those who haven’t.
The U.S. has experienced a spectacular decline in social mobility. In some neighborhoods, this decline has been especially prominent, but we don’t know why these neighborhoods can’t deliver on the American Dream … even while many others—often quite nearby—have succeeded in delivering widespread opportunity. We hope to solve the puzzle by studying a wide range of low-mobility and high-mobility communities in cities as economically diverse as Fort Worth, New York City, and San Jose.
The common viewpoint that poverty is a city phenomenon hides much of American poverty. In rural areas, people are facing ongoing challenges with transportation, jobs, infrastructure, and access to services. The Opportunity Study will shed new light on these challenges, the equally important successes, and how best to move forward.
More than one million people live on over 300 tribal reservations across the United States. After centuries of injustice, many indigenous communities are impoverished, struggling with a lack of jobs, low rates of high school completion, and crumbling infrastructure. And yet other tribal reservations are flourishing. We’ll visit reservations large and small to find out what’s working, what isn’t, and how opportunities can be ramped up.
In remote corners of the country, especially across the Rust Belt, coal mines once served as the primary source of good-paying jobs. For many families in these communities, generation after generation made their living in the mines; it was a way of life. As the country shifted away from coal as an energy source, these mines were often shuttered, sometimes leading to reduced employment and increased poverty. We will visit these communities to find out why some have thrived and others have not.