CFED recently released their 2013 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, subtitled Living on the Edge: Financial Security and Policies to Rebuild American Prosperity. It details how millions of Americans are still just getting by in the wake of the recession, and for Oklahoma the data highlights two or three real problem areas. However, before we take the plunge into a sea of disconcerting data, there are two bright spots. Oklahoma earned the second highest rank among the states in Early Childhood Education participation, an especially relevant figure since CAP Tulsa is an early childhood program provider. The state can also boast of a low unemployment rate, the fifth best in the country. However, the high marks do not carry over to other areas of the Scorecard.
The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard examines the financial security of Americans by assessing states based on 69 different outcome measures. The measures are grouped into five broader categories: 1) Financial Assets and Income, 2) Business and Jobs; 3) Housing and Homeownership; 4) Health Care; and 5) Education. Oklahoma’s general report card, shown below, reflects a mixture of good news and bad news:
- D – Financial Assets & Income
- B – Business & Jobs
- B – Housing & Homeownership
- D – Health Care
- C – Education
For more detail on all of Oklahoma’s results, you can click here. For now, to better understand what these grades mean, we will take a quick look at just two of Oklahoma’s problem areas: 1) Financial Assets and Income; and 2) Health Care.
When it comes to assets and income, many Oklahoma families were hit hard by the recession and left financially vulnerable. CFED reports that more than two in five Oklahomans are living on the edge of a financial disaster. This determination takes into account not only the 16.2% of Oklahoma residents living in poverty but also the 43.8% of Oklahoma households considered “liquid asset poor,” meaning they have less than three months of savings to deal with unexpected emergencies. This lack of sufficient income and assets puts many Oklahomans at a disadvantage as they try to build financial security.
Compounding these financial problems is the fact that 62.9% of Oklahoma residents have subprime credit, leading many asset poor Oklahoma families to pay a higher price for short-term credit in the form of payday loans. [Click here for previous post about Payday Loans in Oklahoma.] Moreover, a poor credit rating also impacts an individual’s career and housing prospects, as employers and rental properties often pull an applicant’s credit before making a decision.
The combination of a lack of rainy day funds and poor credit is troubling, particularly since the second problem area is the high rate of uninsured adults in Oklahoma, a situation that leaves many families vulnerable to high health care costs. For families on the financial edge, an unexpected healthcare crisis is potentially catastrophic on family finances. The overall uninsured rate in the Sooner State is 21.5%, but there is a coverage disparity between children and parents in low-income families. Low-income parents have an uninsured rate of 40.7%, higher than the national average of 34.5%, and partly attributed to the fact many employers in the state do not offer health insurance. Oklahoma’s low-income children fare better than their parents, with an uninsured rate of 13.2%. According to CFED, the difference between the parent and child insurance coverage rate can most likely be attributed to the success of safety net programs such as SoonerCare. However, Oklahoma’s rate of uninsured children is still greater than the national average of 10.7%.
The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, thankfully, does give us more than a rundown of problems in Oklahoma and the nation. It also includes policy solutions that suggest how state governments can improve opportunity for their citizens. Their two suggestions specific to Oklahoma’s issue with Financial Assets and Income are to:
- Increase Incomes and Assets: To help low-income families, CFED suggests Oklahoma increase their Earned Income Tax Credit and fund a state Individual Development Account program to help citizens save.
- Ensure Access to Safe Financial Products: To protect citizens from predatory lending, Oklahoma should cap payday loans and short-term installment loans at 36% APR.
To read the main findings of the 2013 Scorecard, full data rankings and methodology, as well as to create a customized report for Oklahoma or other states, visit scorecard.cfed.org.