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Opportunity Across the States

Sands, Anita M.; Goodman, Madeline; Kirsch, Irwin; Dreier, Kelsey
Publication Year:
Policy Report of the ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Human Capital, Social Capital, Poverty, Indicators, Indicators of Success, Social Indicators, Economic Opportunities, Educational Opportunities, Employment Opportunities, United States, Health, Safety, Regression Analysis, Income


We know that opportunities exist in the United States, but if we hope to share these more equitably, we need to better understand the ways opportunities currently vary among individuals, families, states, and regions of the country. Using key measures of well-being (including poverty, income, employment, safety, and health) for each state, along with measures of human capital (including student and adult skills and levels of educational attainment) and social capital (measures of trust and civic/community engagement), this new policy report offers a powerful narrative about opportunity. Findings suggest that some 85 percent of the variance in well-being across the states is explained by the combined association of human and social capital. Along with a framework and aggregated data, this report contains 50 State Data Briefs that provide users with detailed information for 35 indicators across the three constructs of well-being, human capital, and social capital and compares these to a national average. The authors argue that improving opportunity may be best accomplished using a framework that lays out a coherent and sustained approach to achieve clearly stated goals along with a set of indicators that are aligned to that framework and regularly monitored to ensure progress.

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