Youth Opportunity Index: See How Pennsylvania Ranks•
Joe Petrucci, Managing Editor
Increases in residents ages 18-24 in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the 2010 census signaled the beginning of the end for the longstanding “brain drain” conundrum across Pennsylvania.
Thanks to a first-of-its-kind tool from the bipartisan Opportunity Nation initiative, we get a slightly updated and more informed view of opportunity for young people in Pennsylvania. The Youth Opportunity Index, released earlier this month, ranked Pennsylvania 20th nationally based on three dimensions of opportunity — Jobs and the Economy, Education, and Community Health and Civic Life.
That position isn’t incredibly inspiring, but looking deeper into the numbers its worth noting which Pennsylvania counties are making gains and could offer some insight into best practices.
The major overall findings indicate that Opportunity Scores increased for 36 states against 14 that saw a decline, income is not a leading factor in determining overall opportunity, and education plays a leading role in advancing opportunity.
To see how your county performed, click here. Opportunity Nation is made up of various stakeholders like small businesses, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and other community organizations, and its goal is to reduce the nation’s opportunity gap.
Here’s a closer look at how some Pennsylvania counties fared:
- Not surprisingly, Chester County in Southeastern PA boasts the highest Economy Score (70.5) in the state, up one point from 2011, with neighboring Montgomery County right behind it at 69.9
- Cumberland County’s Economy Score of 67.6 is nearly 25 percent higher than the national average
- Elk County’s Economy Score (64.8) rates 10 points above the state average and more than 15 points above the national average
- Union County’s Economy Score rises nearly 13 points to 58.2, nearly 10 points above the national average
- Neighboring Butler and Allegheny Counties both saw significant gains. Butler’s Economy Score is up four points to 67.5 and its Education Score is up three points to 59.4. Allegheny’s Economy Score is up nearly five points to 60.7
- Centre County, home of Penn State University, ups its Education Score nearly two points to 67.1, nearly 20 points better than the state average
- Philadelphia County received a grade of D+, making only a small two-point gain in its Community Score