Despite an improving national economy, 45.7 percent of Arizonans are in a persistent state of financial insecurity, according to a report released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). The number of households who have little or no savings to cover emergencies or to start building a better life has barely budged from last year‚s 45.2 percent level. The report also found that state policies are doing little to improve the financial security of Arizonans.
CFED‚s 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard defines these financially insecure residents as “liquid asset poor,” which means they lack adequate savings to cover basic expenses at the federal poverty level for even three months in the event of an emergency such as a job loss or health crisis. Included among Arizona’s “liquid asset poor” are a majority of those who live below the official income poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four, as well as many who would consider themselves middle class. Fully 24% of households earning between $54,001 and $90,636 annually have less than three months of savings (i.e., less than $5,887 for a family of four).
The Scorecard provides rankings for the 50 states and District of Columbia on both the ability of residents to achieve financial security and, for the first time, policies designed to help them get there. On both measures, Arizona ranks near the bottom, with an outcome ranking of 39 and an overall policy ranking of 38.
„Nationally, policies at all levels of government helped stem the tide of the recession‚s damage to household finances. They protected consumers from foreclosure and abusive financial practices, helped raise wages and connected families to the financial mainstream,‰ said Andrea Levere, President of CFED. „Without strong policies that address the challenges facing low- and moderate-income families, wealth and income inequality will continue to grow and our nation‚s economy will continue to struggle.‰
The Scorecard evaluates how residents are faring across 66 outcome measures in five different issue areas˜Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education. Arizona‚s 39th-place outcomes ranking improved from last year‚s 42nd-place rank. The state received a „D‰ in the area of Financial Assets & Income, due in part to the state‚s high number of unbanked households and the large number of residents with subprime credit rates (ranked 48th and 40th, respectively). Arizona also received a „D‰ in the Businesses & Jobs category, ranking last in small business ownership. The state also received a „D‰ in the area of Education, driven by the low early childhood education enrollment rate. Additionally, Arizona has the highest number of residents defaulting on student loans in the country. The Grand Canyon State fares better in Housing & Homeownership, receiving a „B‰ in the category with a low number of foreclosures.
The Scorecard also evaluates 67 different policy measures to determine how well states are addressing the challenges facings residents. On almost every policy measure, Arizona also rates poorly, underscoring the link between inadequate policies and ongoing challenges confronting the state‚s low- and moderate-income families. Arizona ranked near the middle in all policy categories assessed by the Scorecard, including Businesses & Jobs (38th), Education (34th), Health Care (34th) and Housing & Homeownership (33rd). The state did slightly better in the Financial Assets & Income category, ranking 26th in the nation.
„Despite improvements in the economy nationally, Arizona residents continue to struggle with the 5th highest rate of poverty, and with persistent financial insecurity. These individuals and families have little opportunity to improve their circumstances. The data from the 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard make it clear that much work still needs to be done to help more Arizona families succeed,‰ said Cynthia Zwick, Executive Director of the Arizona Community Action Association and co-chair of the Arizona Assets Alliance.
Published annually, the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans‚ ability to save and build wealth, fend off poverty and create a more prosperous future. It explores how well residents are faring in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and assesses policies that are helping residents build and protect assets across the five issue areas listed above.
Arizona can help improve the circumstances of many Arizonans by eliminating the asset limits for the TANF program, implementing a state earned income tax credit, and ensuring that the minimum wage protections are available for all classes of workers, including agricultural, domestic, homecare and tipped workers.
Nationally, the Scorecard data reveal that far too many families are living in a state of persistent financial insecurity, unable to look beyond immediate needs and plan for a more secure future.
On one hand, unemployment continues its slow but steady decline, the numbers of foreclosures and delinquent loans have fallen, and average credit card debt is down. On the other hand, families are still struggling mightily to save and build assets.