Opportunity Index details county’s shortcomings•
The unemployment rate in Cameron County has fallen steadily since 2011, according to the Opportunity Index, an annual composite measure of states and counties that examines economic, education and civic factors that influence the level of opportunity within a given population.
However, despite the county’s falling unemployment rate, its “opportunity score” is a mere 36.3 out of 100, which earns it a grade of “D plus,” according to the index’s grading system. In state rankings, Texas earned an opportunity score of 36, one point higher than California. The top-scoring state was Vermont, followed by Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The index is a joint project between Measure of America, itself a project of the Social Science Research Council, and Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan campaign to expand economic mobility nationwide.
Cameron County’s grade has risen from a “D minus” since 2011, the first year of the index. Also during that time, the county’s unemployment rate fell from 12.6 percent to 6.7 percent. Last year, the rate was 8 percent, according to the index. Statewide, unemployment is 4 percent. Nationwide, it’s 5.1 percent, according to the index.
The county’s median household income rose slightly, from $30,530 in 2011 to $31,056 in 2015. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line edged down from 35.7 percent to 34.8 percent, much higher than the state and national averages, 17.5 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively.
When it comes to education, specifically the on-time graduation rate (percentage of high school freshmen graduating in four years), the county has seen significant improvement, from 65 percent in 2011 to 87 percent in 2015. Statewide, the on-time graduation rate is 88 percent. Nationally, it’s 81.4 percent.
The county seems to be stuck when it comes the percentage of adults 25 years or older with an associate degree or higher. The percentage was 20.7 in 2011 and it’s 20.9 percent today — hardly an increase.
Thirty-four percent of Texas residents hold an associate degree. Nationally, the figure is 37.7 percent.