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El Paso has among lowest opportunity levels for children, new study finds

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Large numbers of El Paso children are growing up in conditions that may limit their future opportunities, according to a new report from Brandeis University.

El Paso had the eighth-lowest “child opportunity score” among the 100 largest U.S. metro areas included in the study. Bakersfield, California, had the lowest score, while Madison, Wisconsin, had the highest.

While many cities showed wide opportunity disparities for different neighborhoods and different ethnic groups, that wasn’t the case in El Paso. But that was because opportunity scores were generally low across the board, one of the study’s authors said in an interview with El Paso Matters.

“What’s going on in El Paso is that there’s a ceiling on opportunity,” said Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, director of the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy at Brandeis, a liberal arts university in Massachusetts.

The study focuses on a variety of measures in three areas important to childhood development: education, health and environmental conditions, and social and economic factors. Each neighborhood and city is given a child opportunity score on a 100-point scale based on those data.

In El Paso, the lowest neighborhood child opportunity score was 13 and the highest was 64. The score for the entire county was 34, compared to a national average of 55. (Click here for a map of opportunity level by neighborhoods.)

That is an unusually narrow range of opportunity scores between the lowest and highest neighborhoods, Acevedo-Garcia said. In San Antonio, for example, neighborhood scores ranged from 11 to 87, with an overall score of 44.

She stressed that living in a community with low childhood opportunity scores doesn’t mean children won’t succeed. But on average, children in such communities face more obstacles and challenges to success.

Acevedo-Garcia said El Paso needs to focus on economic development initiatives to change underlying conditions leading to low childhood opportunity scores.

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Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist and the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award. Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on border issues by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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