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Table of ConTenTs

01 02 04 05 06 08 10 12 18 Welcome Agenda Breakout Sessions Opportunity Index Special Thanks Leadership Council Coalition Partners Context, Vision, and Framework for an Opportunity Plan Thank You
Co-Convened by AARP, AARP Foundation, Ford Foundation, TIME, and United Way Worldwide.

Welcome to the opportunity nation 2011 Summit.
Opportunity Nation is a campaign for a better America — an America where everyone who works hard has access to the American Dream, an America that provides both a safety net and ladders of opportunity, an America where everyone can achieve their full potential. Opportunity Nation launches from a foundation of decades of important work led by nonprofit organizations, businesses, educational institutions, philanthropic organizations, faith communities, government agencies, and civic groups creating opportunity in America. The Opportunity Nation campaign is grounded in two years of listening to policy makers, social entrepreneurs, business leaders, and mainstream Americans sharing their best ideas about how to restore opportunity in America. Now, buttressed by a coalition of nearly 200 organizations representing 100 million Americans who recognize that no single organization or entity can alone restore opportunity, Opportunity Nation is creating a shared, cross-partisan plan to promote economic opportunity and mobility. And in doing so, we will create a better nation for us all.
On Twitter, follow @oppnation and use the hashtag #oppsummit. To make a commitment add #commit.

8:00 am - 8:45 am 8:45 am - 11:00 am general regisTraTion/ConTinenTal breakfasT general session hosT welCome Mark Edwards Executive Director, Opportunity Nation Kevin Jennings CEO, Be the Change, Inc. oPening remarks by summiT Co-Conveners Luis Ubiñas President, Ford Foundation Rodney Slater Partner, Patton Boggs LLP; Board of Directors, United Way Worldwide Jo Ann Jenkins President, AARP Foundation Rick Stengel Managing Editor, TIME sTaTe of The ameriCan dream Fareed Zakaria Editor-at-Large, TIME; Host of CNN’s GPS with Fareed Zakaria oPPorTuniTy in ameriCa The Honorable Michael Bloomberg Mayor, City of New York Pastor Rick Warren Pastor at Saddleback Church The Honorable Michael Bennet U.S. Senator, Colorado Personal sTory of oPPorTuniTy The Honorable Elaine L. Chao 24th U.S. Secretary of Labor (2001 – 2009) Covering oPPorTuniTy Arianna Huffington President and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post Media Group The Honorable Michael Gerson Journalist, Washington Post; Assistant to the President for Policy and Strategic Planning, President George W. Bush

PromoTing oPPorTuniTy, soCial mobiliTy, and The ameriCan dream: POlicy ideas. Moderator: The Honorable John Bridgeland CEO, Civic Enterprises; Former Assistant to the President, Director of White House Domestic Policy Council and USA Freedom Council, President George W. Bush Panelists: Dr. Stuart Butler Distinguished Fellow and Director, Center for Policy Innovation Dr. Isabel Sawhill Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution Patricia Stonesifer Chair, White House Council for Community Solutions; Former Co-Chair and CEO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Neera Tanden President, Center for American Progress Personal sTory of oPPorTuniTy Major General Marcia Anderson U.S. Army Reserves 11:15 am - 12:30 pm breakouT sessions from aCCess To ComPleTion: sTarTing early, sTaying in schOOl, and earning a credenTial. Moderator: Bob Herbert Demos Distinguished Senior Fellow, Contributor Panelists: Dr. Robert Balfanz Research Scientist, Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University Wendy Kopp CEO and Founder, Teach For America; CEO and Co-Founder, Teach For All John E. Pepper, Jr. Chairman of the Board, the Walt Disney Company; Former Chairman of the Board and CEO, Procter & Gamble Jasmine Torres Opportunity Scholar; Student, University of Southern California, Class of 2014 Dr. Harry Lee Williams President, Delaware State University oPening PaThways To ProsPeriTy: exPanding OPTiOns fOr JOb Training and success. Moderator: Rana Foroohar Assistant Managing Editor, TIME Panelists: Gerald Chertavian Founder and CEO, Year Up John Galante Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, J.P. Morgan Chase

Michael Jennings Director of Information Technology, LinkedIn Jane Oates Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor Noe Orgaz YouthBuild USA Dorothy Stoneman Founder and President, YouthBuild USA Stuart Thorn President and CEO, Southwire Kern Williams Opportunity Scholar; Fund Accountant, State Street Bank; Year Up Boston Class of January 2010 helPing The whole family: a hOlisTic aPPrOach fOr children and families. Moderator: Dr. Isabel Sawhill Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution Panelists: Kirsten Lodal CEO and Co-Founder, LIFT Dr. Patrick McCarthy President and CEO, The Annie E. Casey Foundation Maurice Lim Miller President and CEO, Family Independence Initiative Roland Warren President, National Fatherhood Initiative aChieving eConomiC indePendenCe: savings and grOwTh fOr small businesses and hOusehOlds. Moderator: Andrea Levere President, Corporation for Enterprise Development Panelists: Emily Allen Vice President of Income, AARP Foundation José Cisneros Treasurer, City and County of San Francisco Hill Harper Actor, Author, Activist David John Senior Research Fellow in Retirement Security and Financial Institutions, The Heritage Foundation Vidar Jorgensen President, Grameen America and Grameen Research; Advisor, Grameen Trust and Grameen Health Trust; Chairman, World Health Care Congress PromoTing CommuniTies of oPPorTuniTy: a new OPPOrTuniTy index. Moderator: Angela Glover Blackwell Founder and CEO, PolicyLink Panelists: Dr. Xavier de Souza Briggs Associate Professor of Sociology and Planning, MIT Department of Urban Studies & Planning Sarah Burd-Sharps Co-Director, American Human Development Project The Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr. President, Esperanza Dr. Scott Cowen President, Tulane University

12:30 pm - 1:30 pm 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm

lunCh general session

Personal sTory of oPPorTuniTy Marquis Cabrera Opportunity Scholar young leaders Town hall rePorT Jamira Burley Opportunity Scholar Diamond Jimenez Year Up NYC Kenny Luckes YouthBuild USA Young Leaders Council oPPorTuniTy index revealed Elizabeth Clay Roy Deputy Director, Opportunity Nation voiCes on enTrePreneurshiP Russell Simmons CEO, Rush Communications Personal sTory of oPPorTuniTy Janet Murguía President and CEO, National Council of La Raza governing for oPPorTuniTy The Honorable Deval Patrick Governor, Commonwealth of Massachusetts “learning TO creaTe yOur new american dream” Suze Orman Personal Finance Expert 2:45 pm - 3:30 pm Closing oPPorTuniTy CommiTmenTs Kevin Jennings CEO, Be the Change, Inc. Dr. Eduardo Padrón President, Miami Dade College Jon Schnur Chairman of the Board and Co-Founder, New Leaders Reverend Larry Snyder President, Catholic Charities USA Michael Miles President and COO, Staples, Inc. Serena Williams U.S. Tennis Champion, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mark Edwards Executive Director, Opportunity Nation
On Twitter, follow @oppnation and use the hashtag #oppsummit. To make a commitment, add #commit.


breakouT sessions
FRoM AccEss To coMPlETIon RooM 555 sTARTIng EARly, sTAyIng In school, And EARnIng A cREdEnTIAl Leading non-profit and education leaders, including grassroots Opportunity Scholars, discuss a variety of policy areas and innovative programs that address the core challenge of moving from educational access to completion. Higher education degrees have become key qualifications in our economy, yet too many high schools and colleges seem unable to retain and graduate the students in their charge. The consequences of educational failure are stark; individuals lose thousands of dollars a year in earning potential, our economy loses billions of dollars in tax revenues and increased social services, and as a society we miss out on potential talent and leadership. oPEnIng PAThWAys To PRosPERITy RoonE ARlEdgE cInEMA ExPAndIng oPTIons FoR Job TRAInIng And sUccEss Leading workforce development practitioners and employers discuss policies to increase the pathways to successful entry into the workforce and to help close America’s skills gap. Nearly two-thirds of the jobs in today’s economy are high-skill and middle-skill positions. Yet the American workforce has fewer than half the number of qualified candidates needed to fill those positions. At the same time, the nation is replete with workers prepared only to fill the remaining one-third of the job market – namely low-skill and low-wage positions. The mismatch will become even more pronounced in the future if we do not change course.

hElPIng ThE WholE FAMIly JEd d. sAToW conFEREncE RooM A holIsTIc APPRoAch FoR chIldREn And FAMIlIEs Leading scholars, non-profit and faith leaders, and active grassroots leaders discuss a number of policies and programmatic innovations that are designed to empower families who need a helping hand rather than programmatic rules and bureaucracy. Successful skill development throughout one’s life is essential to the creation of a society of opportunity. However, children in struggling families and communities have extra challenges and burdens that make it difficult to take advantage of opportunity. The “safety net” of programs designed to assist families is essential but often uncoordinated and challenging to navigate. AchIEvIng EconoMIc IndEPEndEncE bRoAdWAy RooM sAvIngs And gRoWTh FoR sMAll bUsInEssEs And hoUsEholds Leading scholars and non-profit and business leaders discuss policies and strategies to increase the rewards for honest labor, expand the incentives for asset accumulation, and encourage financial literacy. Asset development is a critical strategy to increase economic mobility. Through financial education, access to traditional financial institutions, and wealth-building programs, people can increase their economic mobility. The private sector can also play a valuable role, through investing in their employees and allowing them opportunities to build their assets. PRoMoTIng coMMUnITIEs oF oPPoRTUnITy PARTy/PERFoMAncE sPAcE A nEW oPPoRTUnITy IndEx Leading academics, non-profit and faith leaders, and grassroots activists will discuss what makes a “community of opportunity” and what we need to do to have more of them in America. From comprehensive community and educational programs to the role of institutions like colleges or faith institutions in building community, this has been an area ripe for innovation and collaboration. The focus on the poverty rate, GDP and stock market figures obscures the full situation of economic well-being and does not provide communities the data they need to make progress toward increased economic mobility. This led us to our interest in developing an Opportunity Index that measures a number of indicators at the county and state levels that contribute to economic opportunity and mobility.

oPPorTuniTy index
Today, the most commonly discussed measures of economic strength and security are the GDP and the poverty rate. Both measures are too limited and do not provide communities the data they need to understand the progress they can make in boosting measures of economic mobility for Americans. This led us to our interest in developing an Opportunity Index that measures a number of indicators at the county and state levels that contribute to economic opportunity and mobility. We include indicators that have a demonstrated connection to expanding or restricting economic mobility and opportunity. Are there good jobs? Do most young people graduate from high school on time? Are family doctors around? It is these central questions and others like them that are the focus of the Opportunity Index. The places where people live are pivotal to the opportunities open to them. Neighborhoods and regions matter for To learn more, please visit:

employment, education, housing quality and stock, law enforcement and public safety, community organizations, and political processes. Some communities have characteristics that open many ladders of opportunity for their residents; others do not. The Opportunity Index produces an overall opportunity score and grade for all 50 U.S. states plus Washington, DC. The Index also is used to grade over 2,400 U.S. counties.

sPeCial Thanks
On the following pages we would like to thank these individuals and organizations for their support and investment in Opportunity Nation.


sTeering CommiTTee


oPPorTuniTy naTion donors
Change Makers Jonathan and Jeannie Lavine Josh and Anita Bekenstein Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Sandy Edgerley Anonymous Visionaries Charina Endowment Fund Dan Carroll and Stasia Obremskey TomKat Fund at the San Francisco Foundation Champions Circle Annie E. Casey Foundation California Endowment Goldhirsh Foundation Leadership Circle Bob and Michelle Atchinson Gordon Family Foundation Maurice and Luly Samuels Richard Doyle The Boston Foundation Friends Dana and Bob Emery Bob Bennett Anne Lovett and Steve Woodsum Supporters John and Laura Moore Michael and Barbara Eisenson Catherine Sommers Tony Maddalena Dorian Rinella Jane Green Michael Lynch Tom Wick

sPeCial Thanks for CamPaign suPPorT


leadershiP CounCil
The Opportunity Nation Leadership Council is a cadre of leaders from every sector who are committed to expanding opportunity in America. By joining forces in support of Opportunity Nation, they set a powerful example for the nation.

Salam Al-Marayati President, Muslim Public Affairs Council Robert Atchinson Co-Founder, Adage Capital Management, L.P. Joshua Bekenstein Managing Director, Bain Capital, LLC Angela Glover Blackwell Founder and CEO, PolicyLink The Honorable Michael Bloomberg (Co-Chair) Mayor, City of New York The Honorable John Bridgeland CEO, Civic Enterprises; Former Assistant to the President, Director of White House Domestic Policy Council and USA Freedom Council, President George W. Bush Roger Brown President, Berklee College of Music Nick Cannon Actor, Comedian, Musician, Writer, and Executive Producer Dan Carroll Founding Partner, Newbridge Capital Noel Castellanos CEO, Christian Community Development Association John Coatsworth Dean, School of International and Public Affairs, Interim Provost, Columbia University The Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr. President, Esperanza Scott Cowen President, Tulane University

Jonathan DeFelice President, Saint Anselm College Robert Denson President, Des Moines Area Community College Meredith DeWitt Principal, Meredith J. DeWitt Consulting The Honorable John J. Dilulio, Jr. Former Assistant to the President & Director, Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, President George W. Bush Tiffany Dufu President, The White House Project Willarda V. Edwards MD, MBA Brian Gallagher President and CEO, United Way Worldwide The Honorable Michael J. Gerson Journalist, Washington Post and Assistant to the President for Policy and Strategic Planning, President George W. Bush Kat Graham Actress on the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Singer Christopher Graves Global CEO, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide Barry Griswell Former CEO and Chairman of the Board, Principal Financial Group Paul Grogan President and CEO, The Boston Foundation James Gutierrez CEO, Progreso Financiero

The Honorable Tony Hall U.S. Ambassador, United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture; Former U.S. Congressman, Ohio Ron Haskins Former White House Senior Advisor for Welfare Policy, President George W. Bush Woody Hunt Chairman and CEO, Hunt Companies, Inc. Curtis L. Ivery Chancellor, Wayne County Community College District Jo Ann Jenkins President, AARP Foundation Paula Johnson Executive Director of the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, and Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School Hubie Jones Social Justice Entrepreneur in Residence, City Year, Inc. Serene Jones President, Union Theological Seminary Irv Katz President and CEO, National Human Services Assembly Kimberly Kelleher Worldwide Publisher, TIME Kathy Krendl President, Otterbein University

Jonathan Lavine Managing Director, Bain Capital, LLC; Managing Partner and Chief Investment Officer, Sankaty Advisors, LLC Stanley Litow Vice President, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, and President, IBM International Foundation Michael Lynton Chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment Anthony Marx President and CEO, New York Public Library Patrick McCarthy President and CEO, The Annie E. Casey Foundation Pat Mora Author and Literacy Advocate Rosabeth Moss Kanter Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; Author Michael Miles President and COO, Staples, Inc. Michael Muldowney Interim CEO, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Diana Natalicio President, The University of Texas at El Paso C.L. Max Nikias President, University of Southern California Eduardo Padrón President, Miami Dade College

Kenneth Peacock Chancellor, Appalachian State University Hugh Price John L. Weinberg/Goldman Sachs & Co. Visiting Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Former President and CEO, National Urban League A. Barry Rand CEO, AARP Mark Rodgers Principal, The Clapham Group; Managing Director, Wedgwood Circle Judith Rodin President, The Rockefeller Foundation Robert Ross President, The California Endowment Isabel Sawhill Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution Russell Simmons CEO, RUSH Communications Gail Snowden CEO, Freedom House Rick Stengel Managing Editor, TIME Max Stier President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service Neera Tanden President, Center for American Progress

Stuart Thorn President and CEO, Southwire Luis Ubiñas President, Ford Foundation Dennis Van Roekel President, National Education Association Judy Vredenburgh President and CEO, Girls, Inc. Jill Wakefield Chancellor, Seattle Community Colleges Margy Waller Former White House Senior Advisor on Working Families, President Bill Clinton Rick Warren Pastor, Saddleback Church Mark Wildman Vice President, Group Publisher of The Parenting Group Musician/Producer, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist Harry Williams President, Delaware State University The Honorable Harris Wofford Former U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania Major General Albert Zapanta (Ret.) President & CEO, U.S. Mexico Chamber of Commerce


CoaliTion ParTners
The Opportunity Nation campaign is proud of the diverse multi-sector partners who comprise our coalition. These organizations generate opportunity every day in communities big and small across our country. They support the notion that all Americans should have access to opportunity and that where you start off in life should not determine where you end up. Though each partner listed does not necessarily endorse every proposal in the Opportunity Nation policy framework, they are committed to an inclusive, consensus-oriented dialogue and the idea that all of us have a role to play in expanding access to the American Dream.

A Better Balance A Place Called Home Admission Possible Afterschool Alliance After-School All-Stars America’s Promise Alliance Asian Community Development Corporation Bay Area Council Be the Change, Inc. Bethel New Life Big Brothers Big Sisters (Newark, NJ) Blue Engine Blue Star Families Boston Rising Bowdoin Street Health Center Boxxout Boy Scouts of America Boys and Girls Clubs of America Center for Employment Opportunities Center for Family Policy and Practice Center for Rural Affairs CEOs for Cities Champion Access Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Children Now The Children’s Movement of Florida Christian Community Development Association Chrysalis Citizen Schools City Connects

City Fresh Foods City Year, Inc. Civic Enterprises Coalition for Responsible Community Development Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities College Bound Community Action Partnership Community Coalition Community HealthCorps Community Renewal International Community Service Society of New York Compass Working Capital Connecticut Association for Human Services Corporate Voices for Working Families Corporation for Enterprise Development The Corps Network The Council for Adult & Experiential Learning The Declaration Initiative Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice Dysart Community Center Earth Conservation Corps Education Resource Strategies Educators 4 Excellence The Eos Foundation Equity and Inclusion Campaign Esperanza Faith for Change Family Independence Initiative Feeding America

Feelgoodz LLC The Financial Clinic The Friendship Club Future Chefs Future Civic Leaders Gateway to College National Network Generation Citizen Generations United Generosity Unbound Global Citizen Year Gourmet Caterers Green City Force GTECH Strategies Habitat for Humanity International Harlem Children’s Zone Health Leads Heart of Compassion Hillel Hispanic Heritage Foundation Hope Street Group Horizons for Homeless Children i.c.stars Initiative for a Competitive Inner City Iowa Campus Compact Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation Jobs for the Future Juma Ventures Jumpstart for Young Children Kentucky Youth Advocates L.A. Youth Legal Action Center Legal Aid Ministries

Lemonade Day Liberty Hill Foundation LIFT Marion Institute Maryland CASH Campaign Mass Challenge Met Council Michigan League for Human Services Missouri Association for Community Action More Than Words Music National Service National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy National Center on Family Homelessness National Center on Time and Learning National Conference on Citizenship National Council of La Raza National Council on Aging National Education Association National Fatherhood Initiative National Human Services Assembly National Latino Evangelical Coalition National Service-Learning Partnership National Skills Coalition National Youth Employment Coalition Native American Community Academy New Door Ventures New Jersey Minority Educational Development New Leaders New Profit, Inc.

New York City Coalition Against Hunger New York Needs You Newark Now Next Street Financial North Carolina Campus Compact Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks One Family, Inc. Opportunity Fund OpportunityTexas Oxfam America Peace First Peer Health Exchange People’s Grocery Points of Light Institute ProInspire Reach Out and Read Rebuilding Together Repair the World Rising Tide Capital Rock the Vote Roosevelt Institute Campus Network Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center Save the Children Search Institute Share Our Strength ShopProgress Single Stop USA SnagFilms Solid Ground Southern Education Foundation Springfield Institute

St. Bernard Project Stoked Mentoring StreetWise Partners Strive (Cincinnati) STRIVE (New York City) Summer Advantage Summer Search Sustained Dialogue Campus Network Swellr Tavis Smiley Foundation Teach For America Trust Project United States 4 Kids United Way of Central Iowa Unreasonable Institute Up2Us UrbanPromise Ministries Vanguard Leadership Group Wilmington Ten Foundation for Social Justice, Inc. Wings Over America Women In Need, Inc. World Vision – United States Year Up, Inc. Young Invincibles Young People’s Project Youth Service America YouthBuild USA


ConTexT, vision, and framework for an oPPorTuniTy Plan
After two years of listening sessions, Opportunity Nation’s coalition organizations and a cross-partisan set of research scholars have worked together to develop a vision and framework to expand opportunity that can attract broad support. Already 100 organizations in the Opportunity Nation coalition have signed on to support the following framework, vision, and early policy ideas as a contribution to developing a comprehensive plan to promote opportunity. We invite you to comment on the ideas introduced here.
The ConTexT for oPPorTuniTy
In the depths of the Great Depression, historian James Truslow Adams described the “American Dream” as “a better, richer and happier life for all citizens of every rank, which is the greatest contribution we have made to the thought and welfare of the world. That dream or hope has been present from the start. Ever since we became an independent nation, each generation has seen an uprising of ordinary Americans to save the American Dream from the forces which appear to be overwhelming it.” 1 Once again, that dream is at risk of being overwhelmed. Once again, we need an uprising of ordinary Americans to restore it. Opportunity, social mobility, and faith in the economic future define America. It is a core value of our nation that where you start in life on the economic ladder should not determine how high you climb. In the decades following World War II, that ideal was often within reach. The share of young adults with a college degree more than doubled, the economy soared to new heights, and joining the middle class meant a good job, owning your own home, and sending your children to college. The American model of mobility inspired and reshaped the world. But that model is now questioned; its aspirations seem more distant. The recent economic downturn has left millions of Americans unemployed, reduced the value of homes and retirement accounts, left the government with unsustainable deficits and fewer resources to invest in the future. But the problem runs deeper than a downturn. The great, hopeful churn of American mobility has slowed. More than 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty in 2010, a year that saw the largest increase in poverty in four decades. 2 Only 6 percent of children born to parents at the bottom of the income distribution make it to the top. 3 Just as global economic competition demands greater skills, America has seemingly lost the knack for cultivating them. While the United States. leads the world in educational attainment among 55- to 64-year-olds, it is currently in 4th place among 35- to 44-year-olds and 10th place among 25- to 34-year-olds. 4 For the first time, today’s young adults risk having lower educational attainment rates, on average, than their parents. The result is stark: children in many European countries, from which so many immigrants came to the United States for more opportunities, now have greater socio-economic mobility than those in the United States. 5

For millions of Americans, the pathways of success have become overgrown and unmarked. An education gap has become a skills gap that has become an opportunity gap. These developments have a disturbing human cost. In any given year, about one-third of Americans will spend at least two months in poverty, and nearly 50 percent of all children in the rising generation will spend at least one year on food stamps. 6 Stalled mobility also has an undeniable economic cost. Nearly two-thirds of the jobs in today’s economy are middle- and high-skill positions. Yet the American workforce has fewer than half the number of qualified candidates needed to fill those positions. American businesses currently demand 97 million middle- and high-skill employees – but only 45 million Americans have the necessary skills to do the work. 7 And that lack of supply forces employers to choose among outsourcing jobs, importing skilled workers, or relocating operations to overseas markets with a rising supply of skilled workers. At the same time, the nation has an excess of workers to fill the remaining one-third of the job market, comprised of low-skill and low-wage positions. There are more than 100 million candidates for 61 million openings. 8 The resulting glut of job seekers drives up unemployment and holds down wages for the nation’s low-skilled workforce. What’s more, the skills gap will become even more pronounced. The evolution of the nation’s economy is clearly headed away from low-skill jobs. By 2020, three-quarters of the job market will be middle- and high-skill, and only 26 percent will be low-skill. 9 The broader implication is plain: if America wants to remain competitive, we will have to expand our supply of middle- and high-skill workers. The job market of the future will demand a vast new supply of talented graduates of all ages from a diverse range of post-secondary programs, including career credentials and two-year associate degrees, and will require multiple pathways to degrees that allow students to earn and learn at the same time. In addition to these human and economic costs, America’s stalled mobility has moral implications. In a free society, some inequality is unavoidable. People differ in skills and enterprise. Some skills are more highly rewarded by a free market. But inequality without a realistic hope of economic advancement becomes more difficult to justify. Inequality without mobility amounts to a caste system. When the circumstances of one’s birth become an inescapable fate, it is not only economically inefficient; it is unjust. The good news is the United States has succeeded in expanding economic opportunity

before, and this historic record points the way forward. Amid the strong economy and progressive government policies of the 1960s, the share of Americans living below the federal poverty threshold dropped from 22.4 percent to 11.1 percent between 1959 and 1973. In the 1990s, economic growth combined with policies to promote and support work cut the poverty rate again from 15.1 percent to 11.3 percent between 1993 and 2000. In each period, a near full employment economy, sound federal and state policies, individual initiative, supportive civic institutions and communities, and a sustained national commitment led to significant progress. 10 Research also shows us key levers of opportunity: only 2 percent of individuals who finish high school, work full-time, and have stable families before having children end up poor, while 75 percent of individuals who do none of these things end up poor. 11 There is nothing fated about economic and social stagnation. It is the foundational democratic ideal that greatness is found in average people. When their rights are respected and their potential is cultivated, men and women advance their lives along with the life of their country. The American people have not failed. They too often have been failed by institutions that do not adequately prepare or engage them. Given this knowledge, Opportunity Nation set out to answer several questions: How can socioeconomic mobility among disadvantaged children, youth, adults, and older Americans be improved through innovative public policies and private means? What do the voices of the low- and moderate-income Americans tell us about their experiences, challenges, and successes so that such efforts are grounded in the realities of what will most help them? What are the bright spots of innovation that are increasing opportunities for the disadvantaged to climb out and stay out of poverty? What are the most significant institutional levers — public and private — that we can pull to reform and invest in a broken system that is failing to provide an opportunity society for more Americans right at a time when we need their talents and productivity the most? How can we make a quantum leap in restoring the American Dream for generations today and tomorrow?

our vision
We are a diverse, bipartisan group of civic leaders — representing more than 200 national and community organizations that include or serve more than 100 million Americans — who believe it is necessary to confront and close the opportunity gap in America.


We believe that past debates on equality and economic freedom too often have focused on static categories of rich, middle class, and poor. The most urgent hope of individuals is upward mobility within and between these categories. The economic story of a man or woman should be told, not in a snapshot, but in a movie — and it should be a story of sustained progress. We affirm that the promotion of opportunity and mobility requires a variety of strong influences — families who teach responsibility, individuals who work hard and play by the rules, non-profits that demonstrate innovation and results, faith-based and community groups that provide compassion and hope, philanthropic institutions that make sustained commitments, an economy that rewards work and enterprise, and government institutions that establish justice, encourage education and skills, and care for those in the greatest need. We believe that both markets and government have important roles to play in encouraging opportunity. Working markets provide incentives for effort and self-improvement. Private employment is a source of both advancement and dignity. But government can and should help in preparing individuals for economic success, as well as providing an effective social safety net. We reject a simplistic ideological conflict between markets and government. America needs a combination of smart government and a strong economy. We are convinced that one of the most effective roles of government is to create an atmosphere in which social enterprises can flourish. In many instances, government can encourage the provision of social services without directly providing those services. By fostering the work of social entrepreneurs, we encourage the next generation of risk-taking and innovation. Just as individuals deserve an atmosphere favorable to the cultivation of their promise, social enterprises need the same. Recognizing that a serious national conversation requires specificity, we offer, and describe on our website at, a series of policy proposals and initiatives designed to accelerate this conversation about how to expand access to the American Dream. We recognize, however, that these proposals are in no way comprehensive and that

many others will contribute promising ideas of their own. Starting an open discussion is one of our main goals. We also understand that difficult economic times complicate the advocacy of new public policies. But we believe this discussion is necessary precisely because our nation faces difficult economic times. America is engaged in the toughest global competition in its history. Yet some of our best players will never even get in the game. Among our youth, every dropout means we lose a future scientist, doctor, or teacher. America won’t be able to compete while large portions of our population are left behind. The American Dream means opportunity and mobility — the belief that, regardless of where we start, any of us who work hard enough should get a great education, achieve success, provide for our families, and contribute to our communities. And so we offer Opportunity Nation: Promoting Opportunity, Social Mobility, and the American Dream. This discussion guide represents a long-term vision — leading up to the year 2025 — that describes a new approach to socio-economic opportunity in America that is grounded in the realworld experiences of low- and moderate-income youth and adults; examines “Bright Spot” programs that are helping them climb and remain out of poverty; builds on, reforms where necessary, and invests in significant institutional levers in government; and unleashes the innovation of the private and non-profit sectors. Our approach is focused on five key areas where significant progress would restart the engine of mobility and allow millions to achieve their American Dream. 1. From Access to Completion: Starting Early, Staying in School, and Earning a Credential 2. Opening Pathways to Prosperity: Expanding Options for Job Training and Success 3. Helping the Whole Family: A Holistic Approach for Children and Families 4. Achieving Economic Independence: Savings and Growth for Small Businesses and Households 5. Promoting Communities of Opportunity: A New Opportunity Index If we committed as a nation to these five areas, it would not be the first time that Americans of many beliefs and ideals, from across generations, and from all walks of life decided to intervene in the fate of the nation. James Truslow Adams himself surely bore witness to “an uprising of ordinary Americans” as our nation pulled out of the Great Depression and into the prosperity of the 20th century. Now we are called as a nation to respond again, to recognize

our common purpose and our shared belief in the American Dream. Now is the time to renew that Dream and to revitalize “the greatest contribution we have made to the thought and welfare of the world.”

The framework for an oPPorTuniTy Plan
The Opportunity Nation campaign has set for itself a daunting collection of tasks, all aimed at fostering bipartisan and multi-sector support for opportunity in America: to engender a national dialogue, to advance social innovation, to change policy, and to build a permanent coalition. No single one of these objectives can be achieved without genuine cooperation across beliefs, affiliations, and sectors. The following proposals are designed to foster dialogue and bipartisan engagement around the five key areas we believe can have a significant impact on ensuring opportunity and keeping the doors to mobility open in America. We recognize this is just the start of a larger conversation, begun over two years ago in our listening sessions, submissions from the coalition, and ideas from diverse and bipartisan policy experts and practitioners, that will continue at our national summit and beyond.

• Boosting High School Graduation and College Readiness. Graduating from high school is still close to a 50-50 proposition for too many students in America today, and the costs to individuals, the economy, and our nation run into the hundreds of billions of dollars, resulting from lost revenues due to a lack of productive workers and increased social services. A Grad Nation campaign, powered by a concrete Civic Marshall Plan to ensure we boost high school graduation rates to 90 percent by the Class of 2020 (those in 4th grade today), is mobilizing private and public stakeholders to accelerate reforms at the local, state, and national levels. • Encourage Postsecondary Completion, Not Just Enrollment. Today, more than 70 percent of high school graduates enroll in some kind of advanced education within two years. Yet just over one-half of bachelor’s degree candidates complete their degree within six years, and less than one-third of associate’s degree candidates earn their degree within three years. America has a serious postsecondary completion crisis and needs to move from a culture and reforms that have focused just on access to college to those that incentivize completing a degree.

STARTING EARLY, STAYING IN SCHOOL, AND EARNING A CREDENTIAL It was once enough in America to provide access to college education while assuming that a high school degree was adequate for most jobs. That is no longer the case. Our labor market now places a premium on flexible, transferable skills. Increasingly, the completion of high school is necessary for an individual to merely get by and the completion of some college is necessary for an individual to advance up the economic ladder. A strong start in the labor market requires not just access to education but the completion of a degree. Efforts must begin early and be sustained over time: • Investing in Education Early Yields Lifetime Gains. An impressive body of research has shown that early investments in children ages 0–5 can make a significant difference in their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Empirical studies have proven that investments in high-quality early learning are among the most cost-effective of any investment along the educational pipeline, returning as high as 15–17 percent on the investment each year. We have identified six key areas where meaningful and specific reforms would support early learning as a critical piece of the learning continuum.

EXPANDING OPTIONS FOR JOB TRAINING AND SUCCESS While bachelor’s degrees will continue to be important, they are not the only path to middle-class success. The job market of the future will also demand a vast new supply of talented graduates of a diverse range of post-secondary programs, including those that are two years or less. Particularly for middle-skill jobs, labor markets often require vocational, apprenticeship, and associate degree credentials. We offer these ideas to open up more pathways to prosperity: • Talent Development Credits. Businesses have a key role to play in preparing the workforce of tomorrow and in helping more students “earn and learn” — hold down a job and have support to earn further credentials at the same time — in a meaningful way. • Promote Workforce Skills Development Through Stronger Workforce Investment Act Programs. The current system of federal job training programs can be aligned and strengthened to offer better skills training for workers and ensure funding reaches the programs we know work.


• Build Youth Opportunity Pathways and Expand the Innovative YouthBuild Program. In communities with dropout rates exceeding 50 percent, it will take interventions at scale to put young people back on track to successful education, labor market, and civic engagement outcomes. With a track record of success, YouthBuild offers a holistic program of education, job training, personal counseling, community service, leadership development, placement in college or jobs, and follow-up support after graduation. • Prevent Youth Violence and Set a Path of Opportunity for System-Involved Youth and Adult Parolees. Every 19 seconds a child is arrested. To divert youth away from delinquency, violence, and prisons, we propose a coordinated multi-sector effort to assess, monitor, and implement violence-reduction strategies and provide mentoring and support for system-involved youth to put them on a path toward productive opportunities. Every parolee should have access to a best practices prisoner re-entry program to enable them to become productive members of society.

• Promote Healthy Marriages and Responsible Parenting. There is growing research that having two married parents is the best environment for children, and both parents should play an active role in the lives of their children. Programs that keep fathers engaged in a safe and responsible manner should be strengthened. • Include Pregnancy Planning and Prevention in Home Visiting Programs. Home visiting programs should include information on pregnancy prevention, planning, and spacing so individuals can make informed choices as one important way to help improve the health and well-being of children, women, and their families. • Ensure All Children Have Access to Quality Child Care and Pre-K Programs. Many families face two critical challenges: how to ensure that their children are ready for school, and how to ensure their children are safe and well-cared for while parents work. Access to affordable, high-quality programs should be increased. • End Child Hunger. In 2009, 17.2 million American children lived in households that could not always afford food. To achieve the goal of ending child hunger will require commitments from and coordination among federal, state, and local governments, as well as non-profit, private sector, and community-based groups. Efforts to end child hunger will be most successful when they build on the successes of existing programs and leverage multiple partners to work toward a common goal. • Ensure Brighter Futures for Youth Through Mentoring Programs. Research shows that having a mentor decreases the likelihood that disadvantaged youth will engage in violent behavior and drug use while improving the chances that they will attend school regularly and improve academically. School-based and community-based mentoring programs, including those reaching the particularly vulnerable children with parents in prison, should be supported through public-private partnerships.

A HOLISTIC APPROACH FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES The cultivation of skills is essential to the creation of an opportunity society. But not everyone begins life with equal tools to take advantage of opportunity. Children in struggling families and broken communities have extra challenges and burdens. They need and deserve extra help. A child who experiences acute hunger does not have an equal start in life. A parent overwhelmed by the accumulated challenges of poverty can feel helpless to provide a good start for their children. We recommend the following ideas: • Treat Individuals Holistically, Not According to Federal Silos. The most effective way to help someone in need is to treat him or her as a person, not as a set of discrete problems. Pilot demonstration waivers would allow local communities to develop Local Opportunity Plans that will collapse the silos of service and burdensome bureaucracy and replace them with a locally formulated design that targets specific individual needs.

SAVINGS AND GROWTH FOR SMALL BUSINESSES AND HOUSEHOLDS Productive work and the building of wealth are the real foundations of the American Dream; excessive debt and consumption have proven to be a house built on shifting sands. But wealth and savings are also an area where inequality is most evident. The racial divide in our country is widest when it comes to assets. The median net worth of white and Asian Ameri-

cans in 2004 was $142,700. The median net worth of African Americans was $20,400. This disparity has helped cause an intergenerational accumulation of economic disadvantage. If our goal is to promote broad economic advancement, we must address the asset gap. We suggest the following proposals: • Make the Research and Development Tax Credit Permanent to Promote Innovation. The nation’s long-term economic growth depends on a host of factors, but tomorrow’s jobs depend largely on today’s investment. Our free enterprise system that has sparked jobproducing inventions must be nurtured. • Establish an American Infrastructure Bank. Investment in infrastructure projects can boost our global competitiveness and create jobs at the same time. • Bridge the Digital Divide. Several studies have shown that fast, reliable broadband improves the operational efficiency of businesses, making it easier for them to reach new customers, grow their business, and hire additional employees. This is particularly important for small businesses or for businesses in rural or low-income communities. • Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to Childless Workers and Eliminate the Marriage Penalty. In 2009, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit that supplements the income of the working poor, lifted an estimated 6.6 million people out of poverty, including 3.3 million children. Without the EITC, the poverty rate among children would have been nearly one-third higher. • Improve Incentives and Opportunities to Save. For many families, saving for education, a home, or retirement is key to making economic progress. Unfortunately, most low-income families lack the resources to save for the future. Expanding the Saver’s Credit and offering a saver’s bonus for tax refunds can change the equation. Roughly half of U.S. workers are not offered a 401(k) or any other type of employer-sponsored plan. The Automatic IRA (Auto IRA) offers employees not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan the opportunity to save through the powerful mechanism of regular payroll deposits that continue automatically. • Alternative Data Credit Reporting. As many as 70 million Americans are excluded from the mainstream credit system not because of bad credit history but rather due to a lack of information. That is, their lack of credit history leaves them ineligible to be scored.

A NEW OPPORTUNITY INDEX Today, the most commonly discussed measure of economic security is the poverty rate. The focus on the poverty rate continues to engender polarizing feelings among Americans and does not provide communities the data and complete picture they need to understand the progress they can make in boosting measures of economic mobility, such as graduating from high school and college. The Opportunity Index will measure our progress on economic opportunity where it matters the most — at the community level. These ideas, taken together, create a powerful framework for promoting opportunity, social mobility, and the American Dream for all of us. We invite you to participate and share your ideas at fooTnoTes 1 Zakaria, Fareed. “How to Restore the American Dream,” TIME magazine, 21 Oct. 2010. 2 “About Poverty — Highlights.” United States Census Bureau. United States Department of Commerce, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2011. overview/index.html. 3 Isaacs, Julia B. “Economic Mobility of Families Across Generations,” Economic Mobility Project, Brookings Institution, November 2007. 4 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2007). Education at a Glance 2007: OECD Briefing Note for the United States. 5 Jantii, M., et. al. (2006). American Exceptionalism in a New Light: A Comparison on Intergenerational Earnings and Mobility in the Nordic Countries, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Discussion Paper 1938. 6 AP/CBS. “Study: Half of U.S. Kids on Food Stamps — CBS News.” CBS News. CBS, n.d. Web. 14 July 2011. 7 Gordon, E. (2009). “The Global Talent Crisis,” The Futurist. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Center for American Progress. From Poverty to Prosperity: A National Strategy to Cut Poverty in Half. April 2007. 11 Haskins, Ron, and Isabel V. Sawhill. Creating an Opportunity Society. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2009. Print.


Thank you
Thank you for launching the Opportunity Nation campaign with us today! Your continued efforts and raised voices are critical to expanding opportunity and mobility in America.
q make a commitment to increase opportunity, and do it! q support Opportunity Leaders and Scholars in their efforts, and stay informed at q Participate in Opportunity Nation regional events with our higher education partners, starting in New Hampshire! q share your score with elected officials, and find out how you can improve your grade on q ask candidates: “What’s your plan to expand opportunity in America?” q volunteer with one of Opportunity Nation’s great coalition partners: q follow @oppnation on Twitter and like OpportunityNation. q sign up for email updates at



“my ambition to take advantage of opportunity was never a problem, having access was.”
kern williams Opportunity Scholar; Fund Accountant, State Street Bank; Year Up Boston Class of January 2010


“giving back to my community is very important to me because as a homeless teenager, people in my community have helped me stay focused. The help I have received has come in many different forms, such as providing a roof over my head, a listening ear, referrals to other services, and guidance. I believe that we as a society have a responsibility to create and maintain a strong community.”
Jasmine Torres Opportunity Scholar; Student, University of Southern California, Class of 2014

Co-Convened by AARP, AARP Foundation, Ford Foundation, TIME, and United Way Worldwide.