Reflecting on 2 years of inequality: Opportunity Mapping
The highs and lows of inequality in America
I’ve been writing American Inequality for two years now and I wanted to use this newsletter to talk about the most important things our readers should know. If you’re going to read one issue, it’s this one.
🔑 The biggest thing I’ve learned is that inequality is not just about income in America. Equality in America is tied up in housing, healthcare, education, race, gender and location. And most importantly, these factors determine the difference between life and death. 🔑
We’ve made real change in communities with our work - in Texas and Oregon specifically - and we’ll share a bit about how communities can move from data to insights to impact. 📊 ➡️ 🤯 ➡️ 💪
Building community starts with value
We’ve built a unique approach at American Inequality that you can’t find elsewhere, and our readers stick around for it. We call this Opportunity Mapping.
🗺 Opportunity Mapping is our way of not only shining a light on the communities that are struggling, but also highlighting the solutions from neighboring regions to drive better outcomes.
Our goal is to share stories that are getting less coverage, to help our readers learn something that their friends don’t know, and to do all of this in a visually rich format.
We do this by scraping data from dozens of US government agencies like the FBI, EPA, and CDC, by putting a button to ‘Explore the data viz’ under every single map we build, and by talking with hundreds of people about the most important topics to research.
💭 When all this comes together, Opportunity Mapping helps empower our tens of thousands of readers, policymakers, politicians, academics, and change-makers to see how they can make a difference in the world.
The concrete impact we’ve had: Texas, Oregon, and beyond
Our work doesn’t just live in this newsletter, it’s showing up in the real world.
Oregon - Internet Access: Policymakers in Oregon have used our work to make change on internet access and inequality. Local politicians in the City of Talent and neighboring areas knew qualitatively that they had an internet access issue, but they didn’t know quantitatively where to direct their resources to turn the tide. These policymakers leveraged our data to pinpoint communities most in need and then distributed dozens of WiFi hotspots to communities in need. This work was only possible with the help of the absolutely amazing non-profit No One Left Offline. I now text with the Mayor of Talent, which is a blast.
Texas - Abortion Access: In Texas, a legal nonprofit used our data on abortion and inequality after the overturn of Roe v. Wade. They wanted to know where women would be most impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision and found that on the southern border of Texas, women would now need to drive more than 400 miles to get an abortion. Our work is helping them request legal services to support women in this area based on programs that have worked well in other parts of the state.
Academic Courses: Multiple academic and corporate institutions have integrated our work, including several courses at Harvard, MIT, Georgetown, SafeGraph, Saint Ann’s, and Splunk, among others.
Press Features (including, TEDx): We’ve been featured on Bloomberg, the TEDx stage (video to come), Cheddar Politics, The Lexington Herald, The Hartmann Report, The Kennedy School Review, and many more.
If you’ve used our data for a project or know someone else who has, please write us here! We would love to share the success stories for our resources.
Ok, but how does Opportunity Mapping work?
Research shows that sharing knowledge across regions can reduce inequality by helping comparable communities learn what has worked and failed. Our goal is to promote this type of information sharing through what we call Opportunity Mapping.
We’ve built insightful, unique new tools like:
📊 An open source data portal
👇 An interactive feature to figure out how your county compares to others along dozens of metrics, and
🏆 A catalog of solutions to reduce inequality
Insight on inequality - it’s all about life and death
My biggest insights from this past year is: all roads point back to life expectancy.
All of these factors influence both the quantity or quality of the number of days we have on this planet.
While some of these factors are much more closely correlated with life expectancy than others, we’ve developed a tool to help identify the ways that you can help your community live longer lives.
The stories that we’ve covered show this most clearly.
👨👩👧👦 Check out our reflections from last year that highlight the individuals and families that have struggled most directly with these inequality factors and more.
A mixed bag on progress in equality in America
We closely track the progress that America is making on the various topics we write about. Here are a few snippets on the most significant highs and lows.
📈Internet access has improved with the infrastructure bill, with more than $1.5 billion awarded to Tribal entities and minority-serving institutions. Link to our work on internet access.
📈Youth voter turnout was the highest its been in the last 30 years for the 2022 midterm elections due to outreach, contact, and investment. Link to our work on voting.
📈FEMA is updating their risk insurance mapping with Flood Risk 2.0 after much pushback, though there is still a long way to go. Link to our work on flooding.
📈Employment has soared more than 12% for Americans with disabilities, outpacing gains among people without disabilities, as remote work and a tight labor market drove numbers higher. Link to our work on disability.
📉Life expectancy has continued to fall by 2.7 years since 2019. Average life expectancy is now 76.1 years, largely driven by the rapid rise in opioid overdose deaths, which have topped 100,000 annually. Link to our work on life expectancy.
📉Police shot and killed more people than ever before, and the FBI’s official database of these records have captured fewer and fewer of these deaths. Link to our work on police violence.
📉Reading scores have declined in more than half of US states, a trend that began even before th pandemic, with only 1 in 3 students reading at a proficient level. Link to our work on literacy.
📉Hate crime statistics missed the mark terribly in 2022, with only 65% of law enforcement agencies reporting, compared to 90% in 2020. Link to our work on hate crimes.
Tell us about inequality - we rely on you
There’s only so much we can see, so we rely on readers like you to tell us about inequality topics that we should cover.
🚨 Know an interesting data set? Feel like there’s not enough coverage on some social issue? Experienced an inequality in your community that you want to share? We want to learn from you and others about ways to shed light on inequality across America. 🚨
Paid subscribers can comment below. If you’re not a paid subscriber, click the button below, enter your email again, and you can sign up to become a paid subscriber there.
Big year ahead
We have many exciting ideas for the year ahead. More guest writers. Podcasts. Events with change-makers to drive solutions. And even using ChatGPT to explore inequality. Make sure to keep up with all the updates.
If you know others who want to join us on this journey too, share this newsletter with them too.
Consider becoming a paid subscriber
We’re a volunteer team that focuses on inequality because we care deeply about it. It’s really important for us to keep this newsletter free, to make out data publicly available, and to keep sharing this work with broader communities, but paid subscriptions keep us going and this important change making work possible.
Consider purchasing a paid subscription for yourself, or giving it as a late holiday gift. and if you cant afford to contribute but enjoy this letter, we appreciate you forwarding to a friend!
Please help us in our mission to shed light on US inequality topics that often get left in the dark. Meaningful change can only occur with committed readers like you.
With all that, we’re looking forward to discussing more with you in 2023. We’re grateful to have you on this journey with us.
Jeremy + the American Inequality team 🇺🇸