The opportunity gap

The Missourian’s business team takes a look at the opportunity gaps that exist within the Columbia community.

About six months ago, the Missourian’s business reporters gathered around a conference room with a statistic and an idea.

“(Boone County is) among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder,” according to the New York Times. “Better than only about 17 percent of counties.”

We’d heard about this income inequality before from the city of Columbia’s 2016-2019 strategic plan, but we didn’t understand what was causing it. We began to probe into one of this city’s most troubling queries: Why doesn’t living in Columbia, with its low unemployment rate and slate of opportunities in higher education, offer an edge to transplants and locals alike?

To answer that question, each reporter studied channels that historically generate inequity, speaking with citizens on the forefront of this deeply rooted imbalance and experts who could help explain it. We found disparities between blacks and whites in the high school dropout rate, rulings in the criminal justice system, access to primary health care and levels of homeownership.

These data and stories formed the basis of our weeklong opportunity gap series.

Through our months of constructing this series, however, we also found dedicated, passionate people working diligently to shrink the gap. So, as a final word, we’re leaving you with this: A list of some of the organizations we found along the way, and how to get in touch — whether you need their services or care to help provide them.

Education

  • Cradle to Career Alliance
  • is the state’s only member of the national Strive Together network, which provides a detailed, adaptable framework for decreasing the achievement gap across core educational milestones. Those who would like to join Cradle to Career or share ideas can email cradletocareerinfo@gmail.com or sign up for the quarterly newsletter to receive updates about the alliance’s activities. Job Point’s YouthBuild program is designed to help people who have dropped out of high school and have other inhibitions to success – such as a low income, criminal histories, disabilities or other factors – pass their high school equivalency exam and earn higher-paying jobs. Interested students can contact Job Point’s main office at 573-474-8560. Worley Street Roundtable seeks to address student achievement gaps through open discussion with local leaders and community engagement at monthly dinners. You can join a dinner or one of Worley Street Roundtable’s various teams by emailing worleystreetroundtable@gmail.com or calling 573-514-3056.

Housing

  • Columbia Community Land Trust
  • , formed by Columbia City Council in 2016, is a non-profit organization that provides affordable housing to people with low to moderate incomes. CCLT’s first affordable homes on Lynn Street have been sold, but the city has recently approved the nonprofit’s purchase of land on N. Eighth Street for more affordable housing. Interested applicants can contact CCLT at 573-874-6321 for more information. Columbia Housing Authority owns and operates 747 units of subsidized affordable housing to income-eligible families. You can donate, volunteer or become a partner by visiting the authority’s website, or find out more information by calling 573-443-2556.

Health

Justice

  • ArchCity Defenders
  • is a St. Louis-based non-profit civil rights law firm that works with low-income or homeless residents who face criminal charges and advocates for policy reform. Those interested can apply for ArchCity Defenders’ services at their website, or find more information by emailing intake@archcitydefenders.org.

Employment

Missourian reporters Annabel Ames, Kristin Blake, Katherine Kokal and Sten Spinella contributed to this series. This series was edited by Kelsie Schrader, Ron Stodghill and Laura Johnston.

Supervising editor is Ron Stodghill: stodghillr@missouri.edu, 884-9688.

  • Noah is a business reporter from Kansas City, Missouri. He is a junior studying business and economics journalism. Twitter: @higgins_dunn Email: noah.higginsdunn@gmail.com

  • Alexis Allison is a reporter, graphics designer and master's student. She studies data journalism and likes to write deeply human stories — especially those that involve public health. Drop her a line at alexisallison@mail.missouri.edu.

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