Report Sheds Light on Barriers in Education, Criminal Justice, Economy

Black and Hispanic residents are less likely than whites to feel that people like themselves are treated fairly by their local police or legal system, but they are more likely than whites to say they would like the police to spend more time in their area, according to the key findings of a recent Gallup survey.

Among those with children under 18, less than half say they are “extremely satisfied” (9 percent) or “satisfied” (37 percent) with the quality of area public K-12 schools.

Thirty-six percent said they find it difficult to get by, compared to 17 percent of Americans overall while 18 percent of residents said they are living comfortably compared to 45 percent overall.

Those statistics were among the key findings among those in fragile communities in the second annual Center for Advancing Opportunity’s State of Opportunity in America report — a collaboration with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, The Charles Koch Foundation, Koch Industries and Gallup, Inc.

The report was released during a three day-summit held April 14-16 at the Grand Hyatt Washington in northwest D.C. Roughly 5,800 Americans were surveyed in 47 states from July through September.

It detailed that about three-fourths of fragile community residents nationwide (74 percent) say people like them are treated at least fairly by the local police, though just 19 percent say “very fairly.”

Black (35 percent) and Hispanic (28 percent) residents are more likely than white residents (12 percent) to say police treat them unfairly or very unfairly.

Overall, two-thirds of fragile community residents in the U.S. (66 percent) say people like them are treated very fairly (14 percent) or fairly (52 percent) by the courts and legal system.

Again, the results differ starkly by racial group; almost half of Black residents (46 percent) and more than a third of Hispanics (35 percent) say the legal system treats people like them unfairly, vs. 19 percent of white residents.

According to the Center for Advancing Opportunity’s (CAO) new Criminal Justice Index, 18 percent of fragile community residents are “trusting” of their local police and justice system, while 45 percent are “skeptical” and 37 percent are “distrusting.”

Officials said the goal of the report is to better understand barriers to opportunity in America’s fragile communities by methodically studying the experiences and opinions of those who live in them.

A further goal is to help fulfill CAO’s mission of moving people living in fragile communities from promise to prosperity.

CAO addresses that mission through three pillars of focus: ensuring all students have access to quality education, identifying barriers to entrepreneurship and job growth and supporting research to better understand and solve challenges within the criminal justice system.

Fragile communities in America are characterized by high proportions of residents struggling in their daily lives and possessing limited opportunities for social mobility, according to CAO.

They said this conception is closely tied to the literature on concentrated poverty and disadvantage that became prominent by the mid-1980s.

Although people are not born fragile, too many are born into situations that make a transition from poverty to prosperity a daunting endeavor, thus the report’s findings come from individuals living in such circumstances, who identify barriers and offer solutions; as such, the report is important to stakeholders who are interested in an opportunity agenda.

“In order to fully understand the barriers to opportunity in America’s fragile communities, we need to hear these experiences from residents firsthand,” said Gerard Robinson, CAO’s executive director. “Looking to the future, CAO will build on this report with additional research to develop solutions for a happier, more fulfilling life for millions of Americans.”

The summit featured panel discussions with more than 200 subject matter experts from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and others committed to advancing opportunity for people living in fragile communities.

Discussions during the summit focused on the entrenched poverty and lack of social mobility that plague fragile communities, which officials said they’ll then use insights gleaned from the new report to explore solutions for improving education, reforming the criminal justice system and boosting economic mobility.

The report detailed how many fragile community residents struggle to fulfill basic, day-to-day needs for themselves and their families, making it more difficult to pursue longer-term goals such as furthering their education or starting a business.

Forty-one percent of fragile community residents surveyed said there were times in the past year when they didn’t have enough money to buy food they or their families needed, compared to 23 percent of American adults overall.

Nearly 40 percent of fragile community residents received Medicaid benefits in the past 12 months, while two in 10 said they’ve received disability benefits.

Black residents were more likely than whites or Hispanics to have received these health-related services; correspondingly, they’re more likely to say they’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes.

Also, among fragile community residents, Blacks, Hispanics and women are particularly likely to report that they’re not employed and have been actively looking for work in the past four weeks and almost one in four Black women in fragile communities are currently seeking employment.

To view the full 72-page report, go to

Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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