JACKSON, Mississippi — Despite an improving national economy, 61.9 percent of Mississippians are in a persistent state of financial insecurity, according to a report released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development. The number of households who have little or no savings to cover emergencies or to start building a better life has increased from last year’s 57.7 percent level. The report also found that state policies are doing little to improve the financial security of Mississippi residents.
In CFED’s 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, these financially insecure residents 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. The majority of Mississippians in this category 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 31 percent of households earning between $42,625 and $72,696 annually have less than three months of savings (i.e., less than $5,887 for a family of four). Data shows this crisis affects all Mississippi households with no regard for race, marital status or educational background.
The CFED seeks to improve policies and programs that promote financial security and opportunity. The organization is the backbone organization for a national Assets & Opportunity Network, which is comprised of more than 1,300 advocates, service providers, researchers, financial institutions and others representing all 50 states and DC. To learn more about the Assets & Opportunity Network, visit http://assetsandopportunity.org/network.
In the Scorecard, Mississippi ranks last or near the bottom in issue areas such as financial assets and income, businesses and jobs, housing and homeownership, health care and education. The positives from the Scorecard show levels of unemployment, foreclosure and debt are improving, but still, remain too high compared to the rest of the nation. The South, in general, fares far worse to the rest of the nation in many of the same categories as Mississippi.
“In order to overcome this downward spiral for Mississippi families, the state must invest in the building blocks that create, maintain, and grow a strong economy, such as priority areas like education and health care,” said Melbah Smith, director, Coalition for a Prosperous Mississippi. “Now, more than ever, is the time for Mississippi to take new innovative approaches to address these areas.”
Highlights of this year’s Scorecard include:
— Today, only one in five adults in Mississippi holds at least a four-year degree.
— Mississippi leads the nation in percentage of residents without a bank account (checking and savings) at 15.1 percent.
— 19.6 percent of Mississippians are uninsured. Health insurance provides important protection for a household’s assets by reducing expenses incurred from a medical emergency or the treatment of a chronic illness that might otherwise require a family to spend down long-term savings, sell off assets or go into debt.
— 35.5 percent of all jobs in the state are low wage jobs, the highest percentage in the nation.
The Coalition for a Prosperous Mississippi and the Mississippi Economic Policy Center are encouraging lawmakers and state leaders to enact policies that will help Mississippians earn more and also protect those earnings.
“Mississippi needs to make college more accessible through need based financial aid, restrict predatory lenders who cripple family finances, make health insurance readily available, and further job creation through community development. This problem can’t be solved overnight, but it can be solved,” said Jessica Shappley, policy analyst for the Mississippi Economic Policy Center.
To access the complete Scorecard visit http://assetsandopportunity.org/scorecard.