Indicators and the Colorado Opportunity Project

The State of Colorado has also created an evidence-based indicator framework for opportunity, based in part on the Social Genome Model (Winship and Owen 2013). The overall goal is to help as many Colorado residents as possible become “middle class by middle age” (i.e., a household income of 300 % of the federal poverty line by age 40). Following a yearlong project involving multiple state agencies and key stakeholders, a series of indicators at key life stages have been developed, as shown

Table 13.1 Dashboard of opportunity “Leading Indicators” in United Kingdom




1. Low birth weight

Low birth weight (disadvantage gap)


2. Child development

Child development at age 2½ (measure still under development)


Gap in school readiness at age 5


3. School attainment

Attainment of Level 4 at KS2 (FSM gap)


Attainment of “the basics” at GCSE (FSM gap)


Attainment of “the basics” at GCSE (deprived school gap)


Attainment by 19 of children in state and independent schools (AAB at A level)


4. Employ-ment and participation in education (age 18−24)

18−24 year olds participating in (full or part-time) education or training (disadvantage gap)


18−24 year olds not in full-time education or training who are workless (disadvantage gap)


5. Further education

Percentage achieving a level 3 qualification by age 19 (FSM gap)


6. Higher education

Progression of pupils aged 15 to HE at age 19 (FSM gap)


Progression of pupils to the 33% most selective HE institutions (state/independent school gap)


Destinations from higher education (disadvantage gap)


7. Social mobility in adulthood

Access to the professions (disadvantage gap)


Progression in the labour market (wage progression)


Second chances in the labour market (post-19 basic skills)


Abbreviations: BIS Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, DfE Department for Education, DH Department of Health; DWP Department for Work and Pensions, FSM free school meals, GCSE General Certificate of Secondary Education, HE Higher Education

in Table 13.2. These indicators, making use of data available at a state level, will be used to help identify the most effective programs and initiatives. The project is still evolving, but speaking at a stakeholder summit on the project in March 2015, Gov. John Hickenlooper set the bar high: “The Colorado Opportunity Project is going to make history.”

The U.K. and Colorado are just two examples of the operationalization of opportunity goals and indicators: They are offered here not as definitive or comprehensive but as illustrations of the potential for such an approach of which I have firsthand knowledge. Are there any lessons here for the U.S. more broadly?

Table 13.2 The Colorado opportunity framework


Life stage & social genome


Opportunity indicators

Colorado opportunity project goal:

Increasing the proportion

of adults – particularly from disadvantaged circumstances – who are middle class by middle age

(Family Income of 300%

FPL or higher at age 40)

Family formation (from

conception through childbirth) Born at a normal birth weight, to a non-poor, married mother with at least a high school diploma

Rate of low birth weight

% FPL/ Family income

Feeling down, depressed, or sad (maternal depression)

Single or dual household parenting Unintended pregnancy (intendedness vs


Early childhood (0-5) Acceptable pre-reading and math skills AND behavior generally socially appropriate

% of parents with concerns about child's emotions, concentration, behavior or ability to get along with others (ages 0-8)

% of families relying on low cost food (ages 0-8 )

Children ages 1 to 5 whose family members read to them less than 3 days per week [SCHOOL READINESS]

Middle childhood (5-12) Basic reading and math skills AND social-emotional skills

Standardized test math scores Standardized test reading scores

% of parents with concerns about child's

emotions, concentration, behavior or ability to get along with others ( 9-14)

Adolescence (12–19)

Graduates from high school

with a GPA > 2.5 AND has not been convicted of a crime nor become a parent

High school graduation status (on time or not)

Juvenile property and crime data (violent arrest rate and property arrest rate)

Became a teen parent?

% of 6th-8th and 9th-12th grade students who report ever feeling so sad or hopeless;

% of 6th-8th and 9th-12th grade students who have considered suicide;

% of young adults ages 18-25 who are currently depressed


Table 13.2 (continued)

Transition to adulthood


Lives independently AND

receives a college degree or has a family income of > 250% of the federal poverty level

Employed status of population (by race, sex and age -16-19)

% FPL/ Family income

Attending post-secondary training or education

Average number of days poor physical or mental health prevented usual activities, such as self-care, work, or recreation

Adulthood (29–40)

Reaches Middle Class (300 % FPL)

Average number of days poor physical or mental health prevented usual activities, such as self-care, work, or recreation

% FPL/ Family income at age 29 Employment status of the population (by

education level age 25+)

Abbreviation: FPL federal poverty level

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