Oklahoma earns ‘C’ on finances

BY DON MECOY Published: September 22, 2009
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Oklahoma’s strong performance in housing measures, balanced by shortfalls in its residents’ financial assets and health care, produced a grade of "C” in a national scorecard rating families’ financial security that was issued Monday.

The Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, compiled by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, showed Oklahoma has room for improvement in helping residents build and protect assets and weather unexpected medical crises.

Oklahoma ranked 45th in uninsured low-income parents and 44th in employees insured by employer.

Low net worth
The state also scored poorly in areas related to financial assets, ranking 44th in net worth and income poverty and showing disparities in asset poverty and net worth by race and gender.

However, Oklahoma ranked second in affordability of homes, seventh in housing cost burden of homeowners and 10th in housing cost burden of renters.

Steve Shepelwich, senior community affairs adviser at the Federal Reserve’s Oklahoma City branch and chairman of the Oklahoma Asset Building Coalition, said the scorecard provides an interesting view of Oklahomans’ relative lack of assets.

Nearly 23 percent of Oklahoma households lack the net worth to subsist at the poverty level for three months in the absence of income, according to the scorecard. That includes nearly 20 percent of Oklahoma households with annual income between roughly $45,000 and $69,000 — "the solid middle class of Oklahoma,” he said.

"I think it’s an important perspective — how do we help individuals increase net worth?” he said.

Oklahoma needs more incentives for saving, such as the current state program that provides matching dollars for residents who invest in a state-sponsored college savings plans, Shepelwich said.

The state needs to maintain its leadership in ensuring that as Oklahomans boost their net worth, they don’t too quickly lose their eligibility for assistance programs, he said.

Government incentives such as the home mortgage tax deduction have assisted millions of Americans, but it can be difficult to generate similar incentives for those whose incomes don’t allow them to participate in such tax-code based programs, he said.



At a glance
How we fared

Oklahoma’s grade in five main areas evaluated by the Corporation for Enterprise Development in the Assets and Opportunity Scorecard:

Financial assets and income…C

Business and jobs…C

Housing and homeownership…B

Health care…C

Education…C

For more information and to access the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, go to scorecard.cfed.org.

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