New research, released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), reveals that despite recent improvements in the national unemployment rate, the underemployment rate in California remains stubbornly high with a growing number of state residents stuck in low-wage jobs. CFED’s 2016 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard ranks California 49th among all states and the District of Columbia for its large number (13.3%) of underemployed workers. Meanwhile, nearly half (46%) of California households face perpetual financial insecurity, unable to build the savings needed to last even three months in the event of an emergency. CFED’s research also found that state policies are doing little to improve Californians’ financial security.
The situation is most dire for households of color. African-American and Latino households in California are significantly more likely to live below the federal poverty line compared to white households. Even more startling, new data show that businesses owned by whites in California are valued more than five times higher than businesses owned by African-American or Latino residents.
At Opportunity Fund, we provide affordable loans to underserved small businesses, and help students and working families save money for college or a rainy day. Our services have helped thousands of families over the years, but microlending and microsavings programs aren’t enough to solve California’s inequalities. The data underscore the critical need for policies at the state level that create a more inclusive economy in California. These include enacting a state Earned Income Tax Credit to boost the incomes of low-wage earners, and expanding and protecting other safety net programs from budget cuts, including workforce training and early childhood education. Additionally, more protections are needed for households to access their cash or food assistance through Electronic Benefit Transfer cards.
Published annually, the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans’ ability to save and build wealth, stay out of poverty and create a more prosperous future. The Scorecard assesses all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 61 outcome measures spanning five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education. It also ranks the states on 69 policies that promote financial security.
California ranks near the middle of the country with an outcome ranking of 33—a slight improvement over last year’s 36. The state received a “D” in the area of Housing & Homeownership, driven primarily by the state’s lack of affordable homes and third-lowest homeownership rate in the country (53.7%). Median home values in California are 6.7 times greater than the state’s median household income. The state also received a “D” in Health Care, with only 53.2% of people in California receiving insurance through their employers. The state fared slightly better in the areas of Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, and Education, earning a “C” in each area.
The Scorecard also evaluates 69 different policy measures to determine how well states are addressing the challenges facing residents. California ranks 11th overall in policy adoption, having adopted 32 of the 69 policies assessed. It is tied as the top-ranked state in the area of Health Care, having adopted policies to expand Medicaid; simplify enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program; and limit hospital charges, billing and collections. The state also ranks high in Businesses & Jobs (3rd), having adopted six of 10 policies in this area. The state’s lowest policy ranking is in Education (41st), meaning many California residents do not have access to affordable, quality education or training opportunities to get ahead. Low per-capita spending on public education, lack of incentives at the state level to save for college, and insufficient investment in pre-K education are all areas where policy leadership is sorely needed to improve education access and completion in California. The state ranks 6th in Financial Assets & Income and 20th in Housing & Homeownership.