CPPP Releases New Data Tool Measuring Local Economic Mobility

AUSTIN, TEXAS—The Texas Regional Opportunity Index (TROI), a new interactive data tool released today by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, offers the first and only one-stop-shop for data measuring the economic health of all Texas counties and regions. Pulling together 65 indicators on economic development, health, nutrition, education, and savings, the TROI offers the most comprehensive look at Texans’ ability to build financial security, avoid or lift themselves out of poverty, get a quality education, and create a prosperous future for their families.

The TROI is easy to use and helps communities and policymakers understand their strengths and challenges while also setting goals and benchmarks against other Texas regions.

“We know that in order to succeed, Texas families need well-paying jobs with benefits, access to basic needs, and the opportunity to save and build financial assets,” said Don Baylor, senior economic opportunity policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities.  “The Texas Regional Opportunity Index helps communities and policymakers understand how their residents are faring and what they can do to improve opportunity for families.”

Inspired by the national Opportunity Index  and CFED Asset and Opportunity Scorecard, the TROI consolidates data from 25 sources and provides an easy, accessible way to compare Texas counties and regions. The tool also includes 16 indicators never before released at the county or regional level, including credit card debt, payday and auto title lending density, long-term unemployment rates, and student debt burden.

“To ensure prosperity for all Texans, communities know they need to invest in public and postsecondary education and financial aid, access to health insurance and nutrition programs, and financial literacy and asset building. This tool offers a dashboard to local governments and organizations to guide and enhance community approaches to achieve local impact, while also providing a roadmap for public policy solutions to increase economic opportunity and mobility across Texas,” Baylor said.

The TROI is now available online after being formally released this morning in Houston at an event generously sponsored by CHASE.

“CHASE is proud to support the launch of the Texas Regional Opportunity Index,” said Carolyn Watson, vice president for global philanthropy at the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. “This new tool equips decision makers with the data they need to effectively respond and plan in an increasingly measured world.”

Visit to access the tool.

CAN to host policy forum on sustainable growth in Austin region on November 8, 2013

November 8, 2013
CAN Policy Forum Today’s Choices, Tomorrow’s Future: Growing into the region we want to be 

The Austin region will continue to grow, but will our growth be sustainable? Will opportunity be shared, or will economic segregation deepen, providing opportunity to some, while leaving others behind? What solutions will help us grow into the region we want to be?

Join community members and leaders for an important discussion on the future of our community.

Elizabeth Kneebone is a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and co-author of Confronting Suburban Poverty in America (Brookings Press, 2013). Her work primarily focuses on urban and suburban poverty, metropolitan demographics, and tax policies that support low-income communities.  

Jon Hockenyos is President of TXP, Inc, an economic and public policy consulting firm. TXP, Inc. has assisted private business, public sector and non-profit organizations with economic impact analysis, policy research and economic forecasting.

CAN Policy Forum
Today’s Choices, Tomorrow’s Future: Growing into the region we want to be

November 8, 2013
8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
University of Texas Commons Learning Center at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus
10100 Burnet Road

Free onsite parking. The UT Commons Learning Center is also easily accessible by public transportation via Capital Metro. Find route information at

$20 non-refundable fee (includes breakfast, lunch and event fee)

Registration is available here.

MacArthur Foundation’s Network on Building Resilient Regions releases working paper on social inclusion and sustained prosperity

Buddy, Can You Spare Some Time? Social Inclusion and Sustained Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions

The MacArthur Foundation’s Network on Building Resilient Regions recently released a working paper authored by Chris Brenner and Manuel Pastor correlating social equity of regions to economic growth, and showing that regions with greater social equity have longer lasting growth spells. The correlation between equity and the pace of growth is well established, however, this is the first US study to show that greater income equality and social inclusion can also mean longer growth spells in U.S. regions. The study examines the economies of the 184 largest metropolitan regions from 1990 to 2011.

Access full paper here.

Green Doors and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity Release Report on the Geographic Footprint of Opportunity

Blacks & Latinos more than Twice as Likely as Anglos to live in low opportunity, high poverty Austin neighborhoods, according to the just released “The Geography of Opportunity in Austin and How It Is Changing” report

Green Doors and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity have released The Geography of Opportunity in Austin and How It Is Changing, an in-depth analysis of the geographic footprint of opportunity, or the lack thereof, in our community in terms of education, housing, economics, health, and environment.

Despite the robust socio-economic growth of the greater Austin area, all boats are not rising.  The Austin metro area is becoming more and more a tale of two cities – the Haves and Haves Not A Lot at All.  Key findings from the analysis include:

  • Strong Negative Correlation between Race & Opportunity.  African Americans and Latinos are geographically isolated from higher opportunity neighborhoods in the Austin area.  59% and 62% of African Americans and Latinos, respectively, live in low opportunity neighborhoods in the Austin area, compared to only 26% of Anglos.  In short, African Americans and Latinos are more than twice as likely as Anglos to live in low opportunity neighborhoods.
  • Latinos Segregated from Opportunity.  Latinos, the largest minority population in the region (31% of the population), are highly concentrated in neighborhoods of low opportunity (62% of Latino households vs.26% of white households).  This is especially acute for Latino children throughout the region and educational opportunity.  63% of Latino children attend schools in low educational opportunity neighborhoods vs. 20% of white children.
  • Affordable Housing Highly Concentrated in Low Opportunity Neighborhoods.  The vast majority (79%) of subsidized affordable housing is located in low opportunity neighborhoods.  And only 8% of subsidized affordable housing is located in high opportunity neighborhoods.

The full report provides a detailed description of the opportunity mapping methodology and data sources, as well as additional opportunity analysis.  It also contains opportunity maps demonstrate visually the stark divide in opportunities for different groups of people in our community.

Justice Center issues report on the use of criminal history records in Texas

The Law School’s William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law and the UT Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis have released a report, “Criminal Records in the Digital Age: A Review of Current Practices in Texas and Recommendations for Reform,” addressing the increasing use of criminal histories in Texas for purposes unrelated to criminal justice.

More than 4.7 million adults in Texas possess a criminal record, often for minor offenses, and that number is steadily increasing with more than one million new arrests in Texas annually. The report highlights how, with the emergence of electronic databases, more than forty million criminal background checks are performed across the U.S. each year for non–criminal justice purposes. Widespread access to criminal records through government repositories and commercial vendors has led to an increased reliance on criminal background checks that negatively impacts the affected person’s access to housing, employment, government benefits, and educational opportunity—regardless of the nature of the offense or when it occurred.

The report discusses how unintended consequences of the original criminal record can prevent affected individuals from successfully reintegrating into their communities, leaving them, their families, and the wider community at greater risk. Surveying recent efforts in other states, the report offers recommendations for reform and encourages Texas to undertake a comprehensive review of how criminal records are accessed, disseminated, and utilized around the state.

The report was authored by Helen Gaebler, senior research attorney at the Justice Center. The report was funded, in part, by a grant from the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis.

Access full report here.

The University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagements Hosts Panel Presentation on the Future of Balck LIfe in Austin

The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement recently hosted a panel presentation on the Future of Black Life in Austin.  Part of the 27th Annual Heman Sweatt Symposium, the presentation drew more than 100 community leaders, students, researchers and Travis County residents concerned about the dwindling population of African Americans in Austin.  A recap and audio recording are available at

NYU Furman Center Releases Report on Assisted Housing and Education

Report Released Showing that Federally Assisted Households Have Limited Access to High Performing Public Schools

The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy has released a report finding that children living in assisted housing studied are more likely to live near low performing schools than  poor families as a whole. According to the report, “Families in Project-based Section 8 developments live near schools with a median test score ranking at the 28th percentile within their metropolitan area; Housing Choice Voucher families live near schools with a median test score ranking at the 26th percentile; and the median rank of schools closest to Public Housing families is the lowest at the 19th percentile.”

You can read the full report here and press release here. Detailed state and metropolitan area data may be found in Appendix A (state-by-state tables),  Appendix B (metropolitan area tables), Appendix C (national distributions of family units by school performance), and  Appendix D (top 100 MSAs – percentile rankings for each housing program).

Housing Costs, Zoning, and Access to High-Scoring Schools

The Brookings Institute has published a report detailing the links between housing costs, zoning, and access to high-scoring schools. The analysis of national and metropolitan data on public school populations and state standardized test scores reveals that, on average, low-income students attend schools that score significantly lower on state exams than schools attended by middle/high-income students. But eliminating exclusionary zoning in metro areas can lower this school test-score gap by an estimated 4 to 7 percentiles — a significant share of the observed gap between schools serving the average low-income and middle/higher-income student.

Access full report here.

UT Students Win APA Award for Creating Inclusive Corridors Project

Students in Associate Professor Elizabeth Mueller‘s spring 2012 affordable housing seminar were recently named the 2012 recipients of the Dr. Kent Butler Student Planning Award by the Central Texas Section of the American Planning Association for their project “Creating Inclusive Corridors: Austin’s Airport Boulevard.” (Mueller is a  faculty affiliate of the UT Opportunity Forum).

The 16 students in the course were drawn from the Community and Regional Planning, Sustainable Design, Public Affairs, Social Work, Education, and Architecture Programs. Working in five teams, they studied the larger context for corridor redevelopment in Austin; documented who lives in corridor neighborhoods, their housing conditions and access to necessary amenities; developed strategies for using the tools of “form-based codes” to make existing small-scale rental housing compatible with neighborhood plan design guidelines and the vision for the corridor; estimated the per unit costs of rehabilitating two sample buildings while maintaining current affordable rent levels; and researched policy options for funding housing improvements and for improving neighborhood conditions.

Alan Holt, principal planner heading up the Airport Boulevard initiative for the City of Austin, commended the students on their “exceptional and comprehensive” work. He deemed the project “rooted in reality, responsive to unfolding events, and contributing to a better outcome for the city initiative.”

Chance Sparks, Central Texas APA chapter head, said: “One of the best aspects, and what made this project stand out, was its ability to recognize real-world challenges and feasibility. Projects such as this, when conducted in an academic setting, are often met with skepticism, as being dreams and idealism lacking practical grounding. This is decidedly not the case, as these issues are tackled from both a public sector, policy-oriented approach, as well as a private sector, financially-focused approach. The resulting pro forma on the private sector side is not unlike something that would be prepared by sophisticated real estate professionals with years of experience. At the same time, the students are clearly balanced in their education as they provided assessment of policies in place and use of cutting edge regulatory techniques in the scenarios.”

The student team members included Lauren AmesStephanie BallJimena CruzScott DunlopLauren FlemisterAndres GalindoZachary GibsonCorey Huston-LiterEdna LedesmaChris LeeAndrea LewisJessica KingJessica KolmerAlejandra ReyesKristine Stiphany, and Kate Vickery.

Excerpt from the UT School of Architecture e-news, September 6, 2012.

Access Creating Inclusive Cooridtors: Austin’s Airport Boulevard: Final Report here.

Access Creating Inclusive Cooridtors: Austin’s Airport Boulevard: Executive Summary here.

Access video of the October 5, 2012 panel presentation here.

Interactive Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Map for Texas

The Texas Tribune and San Antonio Express News have teamed up to provide an interactive map showing the location of housing developments in Texas that have received federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. The map shows how the State’s program for the tax credits has resulted in apartments being built disproportionately in low-income neighborhoods with high concentrations of minorities.

Access the Interactive Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Housing Map here.

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