Opportunity Zones, a bipartisan initiative authored by Senator Tim Scott and enacted through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, empowered the governors of each state to designate economically-distressed communities that were ripe for investment and tie them to a brand new federal tax incentive to drive private investment into our nation’s most distressed zip codes.
More than 50 million Americans currently live in economically-distressed communities. Opportunity Zones put the decision-making in the hands of state and local leaders who know their communities best. This incentive aims to lift entire communities out of poverty by attracting private dollars to the corners of our country that have been left behind as the American economy has surged forward.
Here are the numbers:
- 8,764 census tracts have since been designated as Opportunity Zones.
- 31.5 million people currently call Opportunity Zones home.
- The majority of Opportunity Zones residents, 57 percent, are non-white minorities.
- The average poverty rate among Opportunity Zones is 27.7 percent.
- While Opportunity Zones only cover one-quarter of the country’s low-income census tracts, they cover 38 percent of all U.S. census tracts that have been persistently poor since at least 1980, and 49 percent of the country’s pockets of concentrated persistent poverty.
- More adults in OZs lack a high school diploma than have a 4-year college degree.
- Poverty rates rose in 53 percent of zones between the 2006-10 and 2014-18 periods.
- The average median family income across Opportunity Zones is around $47,000, nearly $27,000 less than the national figure.
- Nearly one out of five Opportunity Zone tracts were simultaneously experiencing a rising poverty rate along with declining median family income and home values.
- While Opportunity Zones represent around 11 percent of all census tracts, they account for 24 percent of the nation’s food deserts. In total, 2,225 Opportunity Zones, or 28 percent of all zones, qualify as food deserts.
- Of the 379 zone colleges and universities, 47 are HBCUs, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities and 16 are tribal colleges.
- Households are defined as rent-burdened if they spend 30 percent or more of their household income on rent.
- Homeownership rates are lower in Opportunity Zones than outside: 46 percent of the Opportunity Zone population owns a home, compared to 64 percent nationwide.
The Opportunity Zones incentive allows taxpayers to reap significant tax benefits by making powerful investments into our most economically stagnant areas – areas which investors have avoided for far too long. At the same time, this incentive provides needy communities with a new tool and a level playing field when competing for investment. By offering communities a hand up instead of a hand out, Opportunity Zones are already credited with spurring economic development, job creation, revitalization, and new opportunities for countless Americans.