It’s been a slow recovery. With the January release of CFED’s annual 2014 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, we have further proof of this fact. The report, Treading Water in the Deep End, shows many American families are financially insecure, and this includes a growing number of Oklahomans.
In Oklahoma, it is estimated 49% of households live in a persistent state of financial insecurity, with no little or no savings to cover emergencies. This is up from last year’s estimate of 43.8% of Oklahomans who were considered “liquid asset poor.” Poor showings in areas related to income, assets, healthcare and education contributed to Oklahoma’s overall rank of 31, compared to other states.
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.
For full details on all of Oklahoma’s results, you can click here. But in summary, Oklahoma’s general report card does not reflect well on the state:
- D – Financial Assets & Income
- C – Business & Jobs
- A – Housing & Homeownership
- D – Health Care
- D – Education
There was some improvement regarding Housing and Homeownership, with Oklahoma’s homeownership rate coming in higher than the national average, although it has fallen slightly in recent years. However, compared to last year, Oklahoma has fallen in the areas of Business and Jobs as well as Education and many in the state continue to struggle with measures related to Financial Assets and Income.
Oklahoma persistently shines out in the area of Early Childhood Education, but we fall far behind when it comes to 8th Grade Reading and Math Proficiency. Oklahoma also lags behind in the rate of adults with 2 or 4 year college degrees. This is troubling because falling behind in educational attainment will intensify the states struggles with low wages and financial insecurity.
When it comes to Financial Assets and Income, many Oklahoma families were hit hard by the recession and even five years into the recovery most are still financially vulnerable. CFED reports that nearly half of Oklahoma households are living one crisis away from financial disaster, meaning families do not have enough liquid assets to cover expenses for up to three months should they lose their job or suffer a medical crisis.
Oklahoma’s income poverty rate is 16.2%, compared to 14.7% nationally. Oklahoma is ranked 40th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with only 11 states coming in with higher poverty rates.
According to Kate Richey, Coordinator for the Oklahoma Assets Network (OAN), “A third of our jobs pay wages too low for working parents to survive. When working families can’t make ends meet, then they can’t save for the future and they can’t get ahead. It’s time for Oklahoma to commit to policies that expand access to economic opportunity through investments in adult and secondary education, a development strategy that prioritizes living wage employment and a robust social safety net.”
Another area of concern related to financial security involves credit. The percent of Oklahoma residents have subprime credit was virtually unchanged from last year. 62.6% of Oklahomans have subprime credit, which not only creates higher banking and loan costs, but also has the potential to negatively impact employment and housing prospects, as a growing number of employers and rental properties pull an applicant’s credit.
Financial disasters can be unexpected and difficult to plan for when families have a limited budget. For example, an unexpected healthcare crisis is potentially catastrophic on family finances. The overall uninsured rate in the Sooner State was 21.5% last year, and it remains almost unchanged at 21.2 this year. Oklahoma’s low-income children fared better than their parents, with their uninsured rate dropping from 13.2% last year to 11.9% this year. However, Oklahoma’s rate of uninsured low-income children is still greater than the national average of 10%. This high rate of uninsured Oklahomans leaves them vulnerable to illness, but also to massive debt associated with medical costs.
In addition to pointing out problems facing low-income Oklahoma families, the report offers a number of recommendations. The policy suggestions for Oklahoma include:
- Education: The state should move to adequately fund quality K-12 education and provide for matched savings for 529 College Savings Accounts.
- Income and Assets: The state should move to enact protections against predatory lending practices and create a more progressive state tax rate.
- Healthcare: Low-income Oklahomans would benefit from Medicaid expansion.
For more coverage of the Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, you can check out: