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The Inclusive Economy

Treading Water in the Deep End: CFED’s 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard

By Lebaron Sims and Sean Luechtefeld on 01/30/2014 @ 03:30 PM

Tags: Assets & Opportunity Initiative, Federal Policy

Reading the news, it would be easy to conclude that the economy is chugging along toward full recovery. Just this morning, new government data revealed that the economy grew at a “healthy” 3.2% in the last quarter of 2013. Yet, ask the average middle-class American and their economic outlook is anything but healthy.

This morning, we released the 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, which finds that despite an improving national economy, liquid asset poverty rates have barely budged. The percentage of households in the US who lack the savings needed to weather a financial storm like a job loss or medical emergency is holding tight at 44%, suggesting that almost half of Americans are on the brink of financial calamity. The Scorecard also found that problems like growing student loan debt and high rates of consumers with subprime credit—especially among households of color—are to blame for Americans’ lingering inability to get ahead and build a more secure financial future for themselves and their families.

During this afternoon’s launch webinar, CFED President Andrea Levere called listeners’ attention to the fact that despite 50 years of progress in the War on Poverty, Americans’ economic mobility has stagnated, while household net worth continues to decline. Part of why these measures trend the wrong direction, Andrea noted, is the intergenerational transfer of wealth and the lack of policies in place to give a hand up to those who need it the most. Too often, the family or the ZIP code into which you are born determines your chances to get ahead, and America’s opportunity agenda needs to reverse this trend. Armed with the right data, advocates can ensure that income quintiles aren’t permanent conditions, and that Americans can move up the economic ladder.

For over a decade, the Scorecard has been the go-to source for data on household financial security in America. This year, however, the Scorecard includes assessments of all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 67 different policy measures. These measures illustrate how far states have gone—and how far they still need to go—to help their residents achieve financial stability. Ranging from mandatory all-day kindergarten to the establishment of a state housing trust fund, these policies offer legislators manageable and moveable ways to expand economic opportunity in their states.

Also new to the 2014 Scorecard are Estimated Impacts—detailed projections of what effect improvements in 16 specific outcomes would have on the citizens of each state. For example, Massachusetts has the nation’s lowest uninsured rate, at 4.4%. If Pennsylvania’s 11.5% uninsured rate improved to match Massachusetts’, 742,971 additional Pennsylvanians would have health insurance—no small matter. With this exciting new data tool, advocates can better illustrate the power that good policy can have on the lives of individuals and households.

In addition to the new features of the 2014 Scorecard, we’ve brought back all of the most popular features from last year’s Scorecard: state outcomes rankings across five issue areas, customizable charts & graphs, advocacy resources and more. Together, we hope these features make the Scorecard the perfect tool for making the case to policymakers, community leaders and funders for asset-building strategies that create pathways to economic opportunity.

How will you leverage the Scorecard to advance your work? Leave a comment below or follow the conversation on Twitter using #CFEDscorecard.

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