Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pennsylvania Extends Streak of Lackluster Performance for Financial Security of its Residents

Statement from Lyn Kugel, Vice President of Workforce Development and Self-Sufficiency at PathWays PA and leader of the Pathways to Opportunities Partnership (POP), on the new Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) Assets and Opportunities Scorecard:

Despite an improving national economy, far too many Pennsylvania residents are still struggling to achieve financial security. A new report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), reveals that Pennsylvania ranks 24th overall for access to financial assets, income, jobs, housing, healthcare and education.

We know that well-targeted policies can make a huge difference in the financial security of Pennsylvania families. The Scorecard complied by CFED takes a close look at how Pennsylvania and its families are faring across multiple indices and policies.

Financial Assets and Income: Owning assets leads to improved economic stability for families as well as improved economic mobility. When families have financial assets, they can plan for future goals, such as sending their children to college. Families with assets are also in a better position to withstand unexpected financial situations such as job loss or illness.

Unfortunately, as the CFED Scorecard shows, Pennsylvania still has widespread inequality when it comes to having the assets they need. Households of color in PA are 2.4 times more likely to lack the resources necessary to meet their basic needs (known as asset poverty) than Caucasian households. Single parent households are 3.2 times more likely to be in asset poverty than two-parent households in Pennsylvania. At the national level, single parent households are only 2.2 times more likely to be in asset poverty. So Pennsylvanian single heads of household are lagging significantly behind the national average.

Housing and Homeownership: One of the best tools that low-income and minority households have to build wealth in America is homeownership. The loss of that home can have a devastating impact on a household's finances, and in Pennsylvania, homeownership ends all too frequently in foreclosure. Pennsylvania's foreclosure rate ranks 35th in the country at 3.39%.

Healthcare: When families have access to healthcare, they are less likely to have to rely on their assets or on the public safety net to pay for medical needs. When uninsured, those same families are only an accident or unexpected illness away from financial insecurity. In a medical crisis, families often have to rely on loans or credit cards that they cannot repay, which is a leading cause of bankruptcy.

In Pennsylvania, people of color are 1.8 times more likely to be uninsured than Caucasians. 8 percent of low-income children and 25.6% of low-income parents in Pennsylvania are uninsured.

Education: Access to education benefits everyone - the student, his/her family, and the community. But when families go into too much debt to pay for education, the benefits are harder to achieve.

Pennsylvania ranks 47th in the country when it comes to student loan debt, with the average college graduate having $31,675 in student loans to repay.

For an additional resource detailing the basic costs of living faced by low-income families, please see the PA Economic Self Sufficiency Standard, compiled by PathWays PA, which takes a market basket look at the real costs of essential living, varying according to family composition across Counties in PA. You can find it on PathWays PA's website, www.pathwayspa.org.

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To read an analysis of key findings from the 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, click here. To access the complete Scorecard, visit http://assetsandopportunity.org/scorecard

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