RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — A new study from Brandeis University ranked several California metropolitan areas among the worst places in the U.S. to raise children.
Out of the 100 largest U.S. cities, Bakersfield and Riverside ranked in the bottom five for the opportunities that the cities afford children, with Bakersfield coming in last. According to the data, 51 percent of children in Bakersfield live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods. Two other California cities — Fresno and Stockton — also ranked in the bottom five.
The Child Opportunity Index 2.0 measured neighborhood opportunity for children by looking at 29 neighborhood conditions that impact children, including proximity to and enrollment in early education centers, high school graduation rates, health insurance coverage, and poverty levels. The data ranked neighborhoods by level of child opportunity in the 100 largest U.S. metros, where the study says two-thirds of children live.
“The COI is unique because it provides for every U.S. neighborhood a consistent and current metric of whether children have what it takes to grow up healthy,” lead researcher Dr. Dolores Acevedo-Garcia said in the study. “This matters because the index gives us the ability to use contemporary data to identify child opportunity gaps and inform policy change that is needed to create more equitable neighborhood conditions so that all children can thrive.”
The university’s findings also say that low neighborhood opportunity is associated with lower life expectancy and lower economic mobility. Across all metros studied, researchers found a seven-year difference in life expectancy at birth between very low-opportunity neighborhoods, where the average life expectancy is 75 years, and very high-opportunity neighborhoods, which have an average life expectancy of 82 years.
A child’s race or ethnicity strongly predicts whether they live in a high opportunity neighborhood with access to good schools and living-wage jobs, according to the index. Research found that black children are 7.6 times more likely than white children to live in low opportunity neighborhoods. Hispanic children are 5.3 times more likely than white children to live in lower opportunity neighborhoods. In contrast, the majority of white and Asian/Pacific Islander children live in higher opportunity neighborhoods.
Cities that ranked among the highest opportunity for children include Madison, Wisconsin; San Jose, California; and Bridgeport, Connecticut.