Alabama ranks 47th in a new measure of opportunity for its residents, with counties in the Shoals scoring slightly higher than the state average in economics, education and community factors.
Any company that plans to progress needs to assess where it is, where it wants to be and how it can get there.
The same is true for nations, states and individual communities.
The Opportunity Index offers states and communities a new tool to begin the assessment process. Compiled by Opportunity Nation, a cross-partisan coalition of nearly 200 public, private and nonprofit organizations, the index evaluates everything from unemployment rates to the availability of supermarkets.
It’s no surprise that Alabama ranks near the bottom, 47th of the 50 states. The state scored only 37.1 out of 100 points, falling below the national average on 14 of the 16 metrics used to determine the score.
According to the Opportunity Index, Alabamians have a desire to work, but there aren’t many high-paying jobs. The median household income in Alabama is more than $10,000 less than the national average and more than 16 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, compared to the national average of 13.8 percent.
At the same time, Alabamians have a lower average on-time high school graduation rate than the nation and a lower rate of children enrolled in pre-school. Only
21 percent of the population holds a bachelors degree or higher, compared to 27 percent nationally.
The information superhighway also is leaving Alabama behind, with only 52 percent of households having access to high-speed Internet compared to the national average of 63.9 percent.
Overall, Lauderdale, Colbert and Franklin counties rank slightly higher than the state on the economy, education and community scores.
All three counties received a “C” letter grade.
So, based on the Opportunity Index, the Shoals is making a grade that would disappoint most parents on their child’s report card, in a state that is failing.
“Having scored at or below the national average in many of the metrics used to formulate their Opportunity Score, Alabamians have much work to do before they can say they provide their residents with the opportunities to improve their lives,” said Executive Director Mark Edwards, of Opportunity Nation.
Repeated evidence such as that provided by the Opportunity Index leaves little question about where Alabama ranks in the nation. Now it’s up to community and elected leaders to study the assessment, decide where we want to go and how we can get there.