Prosperity Now Scorecard Shows Dire Financial Picture For Many Americans

Feb 8, 2019

A new study by economic advocacy group Prosperity Now says millions of Americans live under a cloud of financial uncertainty , most of us one missed paycheck away from poverty.

The 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard shows more than 1 in 10 American households fell behind paying bills in 2018, sounding an alarm that most families don't have the resources to weather another economic downturn like the 2008 recession.

According to the Scorecard data, 40 percent of American households lack a basic level of savings. “Liquid asset poor” households that don’t have enough savings to live at the poverty level for three months should their income suffer an interruption.

Kasey Wiedrich is Director of Applied Research for Prosperity Now.   "New Yorkers as a whole are scoring in the bottom part of the country. They've ranked 40th overall in the scorecard, and what we've done new this year in the scorecard is actually rank the states both in how residents overall are doing and on the racial economic inequality we're seeing in the states. So on that, actually on both, New York is falling into the bottom half of states. And on racial disparities imparticular, they're ranked 32nd. That means compared to all the states, the gaps between people of color and white people are the 32nd largest in the country and the extent of those disparities are actually bringing down the performance of New York in the scorecard."

Nationally nearly 57 percent of households of color are "liquid asset poor." Wiedrich says the disparities originated long ago due to systemic racism.   "People have been excluded from opportunities to build wealth through home ownership, land ownership, really sort of discrimination in the labor market, have really built up over the generations to living in really different economies for white people and people of color in America."

Alice Green, Executive Director of the Center For Law and Justice in Albany, agrees.  "There's a legacy here that I don't think many Americans understand or realize. That was a period when the labor of black people was basically stolen and then Jim Crow kept them in poverty. We've been living with that legacy that shows up in discrimination in employment, we have lower wages, incarceration also is a factor that has allowed blacks to return to virtual slavery. So the legacy is still with is and it's being played out in our communities. African-Americans are disproportionately represented among that population and we sometimes don't understand the role of institutional racism in employment, education, housing, criminal justice and even health care. Those disparities have been with us for so long. We live with them from day to day. That population that has no liquid assets is pretty much hidden from much of the community so other people don't see it."

While prosperity is out of reach for many New Yorkers of all colors, residents of some neighboring states don't fare much better. (Click HERE for state synopsis.)    Wiedrich says  "Connecticut is another state that has extreme racial disparities. Connecticut ranks 46th in the gap between white households and households of color, bringing down its overall ranking to 34.

Massachusetts is another state where, it still ranks high in the scorecard, Massachusetts ranks seventh compared to all other states. But if you did not account for the racial disparities would actually rank higher, it would actually rank sixth. So for its racial disparities it ranks 28th.

Vermont actually ranks first in our scorecard. And that's a combination of both if you look at the data for just residents overall, ranking in the top five, and also for racial disparities its ranking in the top five as well. And I think that's a combination of the population that lives in Vermont. It is overwhelmingly a state that has a white population. So I think the people of color that are living there, like for example, if you look at  four-year college degrees, African-Americans, Asians, living in Vermont actually have a very close college graduation rate to white people that are living in Vermont."

CLICK HERE to view key findings of the Scorecard, which also examines the policy choices of lawmakers at all levels of government.