NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity

August 26, 2015

The Heritage Foundation's Index of Culture and Opportunity tracks how intertwined cultural and economic dynamics shape opportunity. Culture molds people's capacity to grab hold of opportunity, for example, a community leader can nurture a young adult's ethic and sense of direction needed to sustain self-sufficiency.

Trends in culture interact and when the family structure disintegrates, children tend to struggle with attachments to their community that create opportunities. However, this cultural decline did not emerge entirely on its own: perverse incentives created by public policies have contributed to social breakdown.

Decades of policies undermining families and communities have taught neighbors to depend on the government rather than each other, with harmful consequences for the very people those policies were designed to help.

This index created by the Heritage Foundation tracks 31 social and economic factors related to culture, poverty, dependence and opportunity. The data is organized into three categories:

  • Cultural indicators such as data on family, religious practice and civil society.
  • Poverty and dependence indicators including workforce participation, poverty rate and welfare spending.
  • General opportunity indicators comprise measures of education, employment, wealth and economic freedom.

Experts from a variety of disciplines and organizations offer commentary to contextualize the trends observed and explain their importance because, they claim, opportunity requires a particular cultural ecosystem to flourish.

The findings point in the direction of advocating for school choice, welfare reform and stronger communities.

Source: Jim DeMint et al., "2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity," Heritage Foundation, July 16, 2015.

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