A national Child Opportunity Score ranks Albany in its "Top Ten." But it also finds access to opportunities for children of color in Albany rank second from last on a list of 100 metro areas in the U.S.
Statistics gathered by the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy at Brandeis University's recently released Child Opportunity Index 2.0 show that black children are 7.6 times more likely than white children to live in neighborhoods with substantially lower opportunity to grow up healthy nationally.
The Albany racial divide and disparity was the subject of an NPR report heard on this station in mid-December.
Why do some have so little in what on paper appears to be a land of opportunity? Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Project Director for diversitydatakids.org, tells WAMC Albany's apparent overall opportunity is not equally distributed. "We can look at the opportunity score for the neighborhood of the typical black child or white or Hispanic child in a given metro. So for white children in Albany, the opportunity score in their neighborhoods is 84. So it's incredibly high. It's actually higher than Albany overall. Albany overall, I think it's 78. However, for black children in Albany, score in the neighborhoods is only 16. That is a really, really wide gap of nearly 70 points between the conditions that white children experience in their neighborhoods and the conditions that black children experience in their neighborhoods in Albany. Overall opportunity is high but they're really very wide inequities, and the inequities we see across the country, but in Albany, they're particularly large, especially in regard to the very high concentration of black children in very low opportunity neighborhoods."
In Albany, 68.7% of black children live in very low-opportunity neighborhoods but only 9.2% of white children do. Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan says Albany continues to grapple with the legacy of institutional racism: "You know, we can't deny the fact that we have neighborhoods that because of discrimination, racism, economic injustice, don't have the resources that other neighborhoods have... there is a deep commitment on the part of this administration, to work to ensure that every neighborhood is a neighborhood of opportunity for our children."
On Sheehan's watch the city has ramped up community policing and developed an "equity agenda" to address systemic racism. Common Council President Corey Ellis is among those leading that effort. "When we talk about equity, most people believe equity is equal. Equity is about recognizing the lack of investment in certain neighborhoods for decades, which allowed those neighborhoods to fall behind when it came to resources, when it came to resources about parks, when it came to resources about streets, sidewalks and also economic opportunities, working in city government or county government or local businesses. So we put together a package that will begin to change the systematic way that people of color have not been able to move up, so to speak, as the city moves forward, their neighborhoods need to grow as well."
Acevedo-Garcia says the Index has already been a catalyst for change the Capital Region. "I think the data sometimes can be powerful. And we know we know that in Albany, for example, the mayor and the department of parks and recreation, they have been trying to address some issues in neighborhoods such as improving parks, especially in areas that have worse conditions, the neighborhoods of lower opportunity. So there are things that can be done. We had also released the first version of the index, and we heard then there was concern about the ranking that Albany got of really bad conditions for black children, and that moved some people I think, in terms of the discussion about school funding, in the three-city area, which is important, I think to talk about."
The Child Opportunity Index 2.0, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, can be viewed at www.diversitydatakids.org.