American Opportunity Index Reveals Which Large Companies Are Doing Best at Advancing Workers Up the Career Ladder


The Burning Glass Institute, Harvard Business School’s Managing the Future of Work Project and Schultz Family Foundation Partner to Create First-of-Its-Kind Corporate Scorecard Using Big Data Analytics to Track Real-World Outcomes of American Workers. The Index ranks the top 50 companies overall—with AT&T, American Express, Cisco, PG&E, and Microsoft leading the list—and five other categories of top performers.

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CAMBRIDGE, MA, PHILADELPHIA, PA and SEATTLE, WA, October 13, 2022 /PRNewswire/ – The Burning Glass Institute, Harvard Business School’s Managing the Future of Work Project and the Schultz Family Foundation today launched the American Opportunity Index, a groundbreaking scorecard that ranks large companies by how well they create economic mobility for their workers.

The Index, which assesses the 250 largest U.S. public companies based on the real-world experience of more than three million of their employees, is unprecedented in its focus on worker outcomes, not corporate policies or practice. Compiled through a big-data analysis of career histories, job postings and salary sources, the Index studies the progress of workers in jobs that are open to those without a degree.

The highest-ranked companies overall include: AT&T (NYSE:T), American Express (NYSE:AXP), Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), PG&E (NYSE:PCG), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MFST), Fiserv (NASDAQ:FISV), HF Sinclair (NYSE:DINO), Liberty Mutual Insurance, International Paper (NYSE:IP) and Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV).

The Index also identifies the 50 best firms across five different models of opportunity creation: the Best Workplaces to Advance Within, the Best Workplaces to Start From, the Best Workplaces to Stay and Thrive at One Company , the Best Workplaces to Advance Without a College Degree , and the Best Workplaces That Grow Their Own Talent. Several companies succeed at generating opportunity across multiple models, including: Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST), Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI), Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST), WESCO International (NYSE:WCC) and Salesforce (NYSE:CRM).

“Opportunity and upward mobility have long been central to the American experiment, however this generational trend has been on a decades-long downward slide. If you were born in the 1940’s, you had a 90 percent chance of doing better than your parents. Today, it’s even odds,” said Matt Sigelman, president of the Burning Glass Institute. “Much analysis of economic advancement focuses on a worker’s individual education, training, and experience or even personality, but the truth is the country’s biggest companies play a crucial role in creating opportunities for their employees to thrive.

“American businesses are struggling to hire, grow and retain the workers they need to remain competitive. They lack visibility on how their workers advance and how their policies affect their employees’ prospects. They are missing critical components of the big picture,” noted Joseph B. Fuller, Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School and Co-Director of the HBS’s Managing the Future of Work Project. “The Index assesses how effectively large corporations manage their human talent, identifies which companies are leading the way, and provides a framework for benchmarking progress.

The Index measures which companies are most likely to create opportunity for workers in roles open to non-college graduates across three criteria: access (who is able to join the company); wage (how well they are paid); and mobility (how far a worker will advance – either at that company or once they leave for another company). Key findings from the Index reveal that:

  • Where you work is critical: workers at companies at the top end of the Index earn almost 2.5 times more than their peers in the same roles at companies ranked at the lower end of the Index. Across a range of roles, this can translate to a difference of $1.5 million or more over the course of a career.
  • What your employer does matters: workers at companies ranked high on the Index get promoted a year faster on average than workers at companies ranked lower on the Index. After five years, workers at well performing firms will advance almost three times further.
  • There is no single model of opportunity: there are different drivers of opportunity creation, including access, wage and mobility, that vary depending on the shape, culture and business model of a company. A firm’s sector matters but isn’t its destiny – the top 50 list includes companies from 21 out of 27 sectors. With 161 of the Fortune 250 appearing on at least one list, most companies are delivering well for workers in at least one way, but all have work to do to improve.
  • The Index offers a set of concrete goals to which companies can aspire: The performance of top firms on each metric provides a set of actionable benchmarks: an average time to promotion of no more than 5 years; five-year retention rate of at least 70 percent of a starting cohort; and wages that are at least 40 percent above the median wage for a given occupation.

The goal of the Index is to empower workers to make better decisions as to what positions to seek and what firms to prioritize in their job searches; recognize companies that are setting an example of how to create opportunity; and arm corporate executives and HR leaders alike with data they need to take meaningful action within their companies to boost the competitiveness of their workforce.

Explore the Index and read the full report at


The American Opportunity Index is a new effort to give companies and other stakeholders a set of robust tools that measure how well major employers are doing in fostering economic mobility for workers and how they could do better. A joint project of the Burning Glass Institute, Harvard Business School’s Managing the Future of Work Project, and the Schultz Family Foundation, the Index assesses America’s 250 largest companies based on real-world outcomes of their employees in roles open to non-college graduates—not merely their statements on corporate policy or practice. Explore the Index and see who’s leading the way at:


The Burning Glass Institute advances data-driven research and practice on the future of work and of workers. Situated at the intersection of learning and work, the organization collaborates with educators, employers, and policymakers to develop solutions that build mobility, opportunity, and equity through skills. For more information visit


Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work pursues research that business and policy leaders can put into action to navigate the complex, fast-changing nature of work. The Project’s current research areas focus on the many forces that are redefining the nature of work in the United States as well as in many other advanced and emerging economies: Technology trends like automation and artificial intelligence; Contingent workforces and the gig economy; Workforce demographics and the “care economy”; The middle-skills gap and worker investments; Global talent access and utilization; Spatial tensions between leading urban centers and rural areas. Learn more at: .


The Schultz Family Foundation, established in 1996 by Sheri and Howard Schultz, creates pathways of opportunity for populations facing barriers to success, focusing on youth transitioning to adulthood and marginalized populations, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. By investing in scalable solutions and partnerships in communities across the country, the Foundation aims to help tackle the barriers and roadblocks that prevent individuals from reaching their full potential and, in doing so, strengthen our communities and our nation. For more information about the Foundation and its work: .

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