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Choosing Our Future: A Story of Opportunity in America
Irwin Kirsch, Henry Braun, Mary Louise Lennon, and Anita Sands

Appendix

The figures in this appendix present additional data that support and extend key points made in the narrative. For each figure, a section number and relevant portion of the text is provided to connect the presented data with the narrative.

Figure A-1

Preface

Different starting points place children on distinctly different trajectories of growth, leading to the accelerated accumulation of advantage or disadvantage and, ultimately, to vastly different adult outcomes. This polarization of life outcomes is not confined to any particular racial group or region of the country; it is truly national in scope.

America's Children

Horizontal bar graph illustrating the percentage of American children living in poverty and disadvantaged circumstances.

Note that statistics are based on the federal poverty definition and do not include supplemental measures such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

(1) Kids Count Data Center.  The federal poverty definition consists of a series of thresholds based on family size and composition. Poverty status is not determined for people in military barracks, institutional quarters, or for unrelated individuals under age 15 (such as foster children). The data are based on income received in the 12 months prior to the survey. Data Source: Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, 2001 Supplementary Survey, 2002 through 2013. These data were derived from American FactFinder table B17001 (factfinder2.census.gov/), American Community Survey. Note:  2013 federal poverty measure: four-person family/household, $23,550; three-person family/household, $19,530; two-person family/household, $15,510.

(2) Kids Count Data Center. Definitions: Children living in census tracts with poverty rates of 30 percent or more. Data Source: Population Reference Bureau analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Decennial Census Summary File 1 and Summary File 3 and the 2009–2013 American Community Survey 5-year data.

(3) Kids Count Data Center. Definitions: Families with related children under age 18 that have incomes below the federal poverty level. Data Source: Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, 2001 Supplementary Survey, 2002 through 2013. These were derived from American FactFinder table B17010 (factfinder2.census.gov/), American Community Survey.

(4) Kids Count Data Center. Definitions: Children ages 0 to 5 whose parents report they are at risk for developmental delay, by income level. Parents of children ages 4 months and older were asked about specific concerns about their child. If parents answered that they had "a lot" or "a little" concern regarding any developmental areas that are considered predictive of delay at a given age, then the child was classified as being at risk for delay. Predictive concerns items are based on a commonly used screener Parent's Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS). Data Source: Child Trends analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, National Survey of Children's Health. 

(5) Source:  Child Trends DataBank.  Includes births to mothers in the 5 years before the interview.  Note: Either adults or children or both were food insecure. At times they were unable to acquire adequate food for active, healthy living for all household members because they had insufficient money and other resources for food.

Figure A-2

Section 2: The Increasing Importance of Skills

There is a clear – and growing – advantage to those with college and graduate degrees.

Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment

Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment

Note: Data are for persons age 25 and over. Earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers. Source: Current Population Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Figure A-3

Section 2.1: Skills in the Workplace

The demands of a technologically infused economy, the rapid pace of change, and global competition have interacted to alter the workplace and increase the demand for more broadly skilled employees. Analytical, technical, and problem-solving abilities, along with communication, collaboration, and teamwork skills are increasingly valued. Employers also seek workers who can keep pace with rapidly changing technologies.

David Autor, Frank Levy, and Richard Murnane (2003) developed a methodology to measure and analyze changes in the skills demands of jobs. They describe several broad categories of tasks:

Routine tasks include limited and well-defined cognitive and manual activities that can be accomplished by following explicit rules. (Because of these characteristics, such tasks are being increasingly performed by machines or outsourced to low-wage workers in other countries.)

  • Routine manual tasks include repetitive production and monitoring jobs performed on an assembly line.
  • Routine cognitive tasks include tasks such as bookkeeping and data entry.

Non-routine tasks require problem solving and complex communication activities.

  • Non-routine analytic tasks typically require high levels of education and analytic capability and are complemented by technology; examples include tasks associated with engineering and science.
  • Non-routine interpersonal tasks include professional work associated with managerial responsibilities.
  • Non-routine manual tasks are straightforward for humans but, because they demand situational adaptability, visual and language recognition, and in-person interaction, are not easily replaced by technology. Examples include preparing a meal or cleaning a hotel room.

Trends in Routine and Non-Routine Tasks in Occupations, United States, 1960 to 2009

Trends in Routine and Non-Routine Tasks in Occupations, United States, 1960 to 2009

Source: David H. Autor and Brendan Price, 2013, "The Changing Task Composition of the US Labor Market: An Update of Autor, Levy, and Murnane (2003)," MIT Mimeograph, June 2013, http://economics.mit.edu/files/9758.

Figure A-4A

Section 2.3: America's Skills Gap

Data from a number of large-scale national and international assessments provide direct evidence regarding the actual skill levels of our student and adult populations.

NAEP Reading, Math, and Science at 4th, 8th, and 12th Grades

NAEP Reading, Math, and Science at 4th, 8th, and 12th Grades

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, Reading, Mathematics, and Science. See: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

Figure A-4B

Section 2.3: America's Skills Gap

Percent Meeting Benchmarks - PIAAC, ACT, SAT

Percent Meeting Benchmarks - PIAAC, ACT, SAT

* Percentage above benchmark = Level 3 and above. Percentage below benchmark = Below Level 3. Population 16 to 34 years old.

Source: SAT data from "Annual Results Reveal Largest and Most Diverse Group of Students Take PSAT/NMSQT®, SAT®, and AP®; Need to Improve Readiness Remains," College Board, see https://www.collegeboard.org/releases/2015/annual-results-reveal-largest-most-diverse-group-students-take-psat-sat-ap; ACT data from: "The Conditions of College & Career Readiness 2015," ACT, see: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/research/condition-of-college-and-career-readiness-2015.html; PIAAC data from: Madeline Goodman, Anita Sands, and Richard A. Coley, America's Skills Challenge: Millennials and the Future (Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 2015), using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), 2012.

Figure A-5

Section 3.2: The Growing Divide

While family structure has become increasingly varied across social and economic lines over the past two generations, differences by education and skills can be found here as well.

Increasing Gap in Single-Parent Families by Parents' Education

Percent of Children Living in a Single-Parent Family, United States

Increasing Gap in Single-Parent Families by Parents' Education

Details: Percent of children in single-parent families by parents' highest level of education.

Source: Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire. See: https://carsey.unh.edu/vulnerable-families-research-program/opportunity-gap. Accessed July 10, 2015. Adapted from IPUMS-USA, University of Minnesota, www.ipums.org. Data: 1960-2000 U.S. Decennial Census; 2008-2012 ACS Five-Year Estimates (2010).

Figure A-6A

Section 3.3: Compounding Advantage

Persistent gaps in human and social capital both reflect, and contribute to, the polarization of life outcomes and outlooks. Gaps are associated with a range of differences, including economic outcomes such as wages and benefits.

Real Hourly Wages by Select Percentiles, 1973 - 2012, All Workers (2012 dollars)

Real Hourly Wages by Select Percentiles, 1973 - 2012, All Workers (2012 dollars)

Source: Economic Policy Institute's The State of Working America, 12th Edition. Data from Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata. Note: The xth-percentile wage is the wage at which x% of the wage earners earn less and (100-x)% earn more.

Figure A-6B

Source: Base data from Economic Policy Institute's The State of Working America, 12th Edition. Real hourly wages by select percentiles, 1973-2012 (2012 dollars). Annual wage estimates are authors' calculations. Data from Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata.

Table A-1

Section 4: The Transmission of Opportunity: Gates and Gaps

More typically, however, multiple factors play the role of gates at different stages of development. Each of those factors amplifies the effects of the others and, in combination over time, lead to ever-greater gaps.

Percent of 24- to 28-Year-Olds with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher in 2008 by Skills* and Family Income**

Section 4: The Transmission of Opportunity: Gates and Gaps

*Skills are reported by quintiles based on scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) **Family income is reported based on income status in 1997

Source: Andrew Sum, October 2013, presentation to Opportunity in America panel.

Figure A-7

Section 4.1: The Earliest Gates

The potential for children to thrive begins even before birth, impacted by the health of their mothers, the availability of prenatal care, and the family structure into which they will be born.

Infant Mortality Rates By Mother's Education

Infant Mortality Rates By Mother's Education

Source: Commission to Build a Healthier America, Education Matters for Health, Issue Brief 6 (Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2009), http://www.commissiononhealth.org/PDF/c270deb3-ba42-4fbd-baeb-2cd65956f00e/Issue%20Brief%206%20Sept%2009%20-%20Education%20and%20Health.pdf. Adapted from Matthews T.J., MacDorman, M.F. Infant Mortality Statistics from the 2004 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Dataset. National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 55, No 15. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2007.

Figure A-8

Section 4.1: The Earliest Gates

Parents' Education Is Linked to Children's Health†

Section 4.1: The Earliest Gates

† Based on parental assessment and measured as poor, fair, good, very good, or excellent
* Age-adjusted

Source: Commission to Build A Healthier America, Education Matters for Health, Issue Brief 6 (Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2009), http://www.commissiononhealth.org/PDF/c270deb3-ba42-4fbd-baeb-2cd65956f00e/Issue%20Brief%206%20Sept%2009%20-%20Education%20and%20Health.pdf. Adapted from National Health Interview Survey, 2001-2005.

Figure A-9

Section 4.1: The Earliest Gates

The percentage of children born to unmarried mothers has increased dramatically.

Percent Non-Marital Births (to Women Ages 20 to 29 Years), by Race/Ethnicity and Level of Education, 1990 and 2009

Section 4.1: The Earliest Gates

Source: Child Trends, "Non-Marital Births: Educational Differences, Table 5. Percent Non-Marital Births (to Women Ages 20 to 29), by Race/Ethnicity and Level of Education." See http://www.childtrends.org/non-marital-births-educational-differences/.

Figure A-10

Section 4.1: The Earliest Gates

Percentage of Women Married Among Educational Attainment Groups, 1940-2011

Section 4.1: The Earliest Gates

Source: Julissa Cruz, Marriage: More than a Century of Change, Family Profiles-13-13) (Bowling Green, Ohio: National Center for Family and Marriage Research), retrieved from https://www.bgsu.edu/content/dam/BGSU/college-of-arts-and-sciences/NCFMR/documents/FP/FP-13-13.pdf. Adapted from U.S. Census Bureau, Decennial Census, 1940-2000 (IPUMS); U.S. Census Bureau.

Figure A-11

Section 4.3: The Role of Neighborhoods in the Transmission of Opportunity

Segregation by socioeconomic status has been on the rise.

Increasing Residential Segregation by Income, 1980 and 2010

Section 4.3: The Role of Neighborhoods in the Transmission of Opportunity

Note: Based on census tracts in the nation's 942 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. The upper bars report the share of lower-income households that reside in a census tract in which at least half of the households were lower income. The lower bars show the share of upper-income households that reside in majority upper-income census tracts.

Source: Paul Taylor and Richard Fry, "The Rise of Residential Segregation by Income Social & Demographic Trends." Pew Research Center, 2012. Graph title: Share of Lower-Income and Upper-Income Households Who Live Mainly among Themselves, 1980-2010.

Figure A-12

Section 4.3: The Role of Neighborhoods in the Transmission of Opportunity

Trends in Segregation by Income, by Race Metropolitan Areas with Population > 500,000

Section 4.3: The Role of Neighborhoods in the Transmission of Opportunity

Note: Averages include all metropolitan areas with at least 500,000 residents in 2007 and at least 10,000 families of a given race in each year 1970-2009 (or each year 1980-2009 for Hispanics). This includes 116 metropolitan areas for the trends in total and White income segregation, 65 metropolitan areas for the trends in income segregation among Black families, and 37 metropolitan areas for the trends in income segregation among Hispanic families. The averages presented here are unweighted. The trends are very similar if metropolitan areas are weighted by the population of the group of interest.

Source: Kendra Bischoff and Sean F. Reardon, Residential Segregation by Income, 1970-2009 (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2013). Original title: Trends in Family Income Segregation, by Race, Metropolitan Areas With Population > 500,000.

Figure A-13

Section 6: Conclusion

The cumulative effects of the profound economic and social changes over the past few decades have shaken American optimism and faith in the American Dream. In the midst of what can be termed the Age of Anxiety, many feel powerless, resigned and troubled, worried about not only their futures but those of their children and grandchildren.

Changes in Perceptions of Economic Opportunity, 1987-2012

Changes in Perceptions of Economic Opportunity, 1987-2012

Source: Leslie McCall, "Political and Policy Responses to Problems of Inequality and Opportunity: Past, Present, and Future." In The Dynamics of Opportunity in America: Evidence and Perspective, eds., Irwin Kirsch and Henry Braun (New York: Springer, 2016). Author's analysis of the General Social Survey.