Place Matters: Using Mapping to Plan for Opportunity, Equity, and Sustainability

For most of us, the neighborhood is our “ecosystem,” a place that can either provide the opportunities we need to grow or stifle our potential. We generally know an opportunity-rich neighborhood when we see one: a place that provides access to quality schools, healthy food and recreational options, stable and supportive housing, sustainable employment, and strong social networks.

More than a half century of research has documented the roles neighborhoods play in supporting positive life outcomes.1 This large body of research is continually growing as we learn more about how neighborhoods—our social, natural, and built environments—influence our physical and psychological health.

For many marginalized communities, particularly low-income communities and segregated communities of color, neighborhood conditions limit access to opportunity and advancement. Residents concentrated in opportunity-deprived communities lack access to steady employment, essential services, and good schools, and often live in unsafe environments. In these neighborhoods, under-resourced schools struggle to meet the myriad needs of children in poverty; parents shop at grocery stores with overpriced and low‐quality food; and people motivated to work lack connection to meaningful, sustainable employment. This geographic isolation from opportunity creates artificial barriers to improvement for these residents and significantly diminishes their quality of life….

Prepared by: Jason Reece, David Norris, Jillian Olinger, Kip Holley, Matt Martin