Study shows contrast in levels of opportunities for children in Northeast Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There is a vast contrast within only a matter of miles of where children are thriving the most in Northeast Florida when it comes to safe housing, schools and access to healthy foods, according to a new study.

Researchers with the Institute for Child Youth and Family Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University recently released its findings in the “Child Opportunity Index 2.0.” Researchers looked at opportunities for early childhood education, graduation and employment rates, school poverty, pollution levels and access to healthy food, and greens spaces such as parks and playgrounds.

Recently released Child Opportunity Index maps have a five-part scale, ranking areas of opportunity from very low to very high. High levels of opportunity are darker colored.

The map for the Jacksonville metropolitan area shows opportunity levels for children are very low in the rural area from the Osceola National Forest to Kenny and Sanderson, according to researchers. But as the map moves into areas such as Macclenny and north to Bryceville and Callahan and all the way east to the coastline, the study reflects a very high level of opportunity for children and their success in school, social life and finding a sustainable job.

As the map moves into the urban core of Jacksonville -- in the areas of town south of the Jacksonville Internation Airport starting around Sherwood Forest, Riverview, and ZIP codes 32202, 32204 and 32209 -- results reveal that there are very low levels of opportunities for the children there, with challenges that include food deserts, poverty and high crime rates.

Moving farther down to the south in the communities of Riverside and Avondale, and as far east as Englewood, the scores go up and gradually get better closer and closer to the beach.

But just west of Lakewood and east of San Jose Forest, there’s a small sliver of an area just west of Interstate 95 that shows some real challenge for children, according to the study. But all that changes closer to Sunbeam Road and farther south into St. Johns County, where researchers say students are more likely to excel in school, graduate from college and find living-wage jobs. According to the study, the only real area of concern for children based on the parameters is west of St. Augustine -- some of the urban areas near Moultrie Junction.

Previous studies such as the one conducted by the Institute for Child Youth and Family Policy have been instrumental nationwide in pinpointing where resources are lacking.

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