You're looking for an affordable place to live. You want a job that pays decently. But you don't want to drive to work (perhaps you don't own a car). Where should you go?
You might start by consulting Opportunity Score, a new tool that covers 350 major U.S. cities. From the same company that runs the popular Walk Score system, it rates metropolitan areas by a combination of transit density, job availability, and housing affordability. Put in any address and see how many jobs paying at least $40,000 in salary are on offer within a 30-minute commute by bus, tram, or subway.
The tool was developed by real estate company Redfin, taking part in a hackathon organized by the White House's Opportunity Project that aimed to improve economic mobility through the use of open data. We covered some of the other tools here.
Transit-oriented job availability is particularly important for low-income groups. About a third of households at or below the federal poverty line don't have access to cars (and the proportion is higher among low-income African American and Latino households).
Overall, San Jose, Milwaukee, and Albuquerque have the highest percentages of car-free commute jobs, the tool shows, with some addresses getting perfect 100 points. At the other end, cities like Miami and Detroit have less car-free job availability. But the full-city scores don't fully answer the question of where you might want to live. For that, you need to look up a particular address and see the housing costs. In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, both San Francisco and Oakland have high car-free employment scores. But one side of the Bay is cheaper to live than the other, meaning its real Opportunity Score is higher (Redfin chose not to combine house prices directly into its scoring).
Nela Richardson, Redfin's chief economist, says location is a key determinant of a family's ability to succeed. Finding an affordable home within proximity of good quality jobs improves someone's chances of getting ahead in life, she says (while the opposite is also true).
Redfin based the tool on its Walk Score API adding in jobs data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, population data from the U.S. Census, and housing data from its own archives. Unfortunately, Boston isn't included at present because of a lack of data. But Richardson hopes this will be fixed soon.
See Opportunity Score for yourself here.
[Cover Photo: Allen.G via Shutterstock]
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