As we hear reports from Jackson about how the state economy and tax collections have improved, it’s useful to glance every so often at other views. A report produced by the Corporation for Enterprise Development gives us such a glance.
“Treading Water in the Deep End – CFED’s Assets and Opportunity Scorecard,” published in January, provides a state-by-state (and District of Columbia) scorecard that shows how well residents are faring. It looks at five categories: Financial Assets and Income, Businesses and Jobs, Housing and Homeownership, Health Care and Education.
Mississippi ranks dead-last overall, down two slots from last year.
Accompanying us in the bottom five are, in order from the bottom, Nevada, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. The top five, in order from the top, are Vermont, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Wyoming and Alaska. In each of the five categories listed above, Mississippi ranked 50th, 51st, 26th, 32nd, and 51st respectively.
The report cited these worrisome trends nationally:
“Despite an improving national economy, liquid asset poverty rates have barely budged. The percentage of households in the U.S. who lack the savings needed to weather a financial storm like a job loss or medical emergency is holding tight at 44 percent, 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.”
Here are some of our worst-in-the-nation statistics (national average in parentheses):
• 69.1 percent of Mississippi consumers have subprime credit (56.3 percent).
• 48.2 percent of Mississippi workers have employer-provided health insurance (57.4 percent).
• 35.5 percent of Mississippi workers hold low-wage jobs (21 percent).
• 22.4 percent of Mississippians live in poverty (14.7 percent).
• 20.2 percent of Mississippi eighth-graders read at a proficient level or above (36.1 percent).
Here are some only slightly better statistics:
• 17.4 percent of Mississippi student loans are in default (14.7 percent), ranking 47th nationally.
• 4.01 percent of Mississippi homeowners with mortgages are delinquent in their payments (2.55 percent), ranking 49th in the nation.
• 21.3 percent of Mississippi eighth-graders are proficient in math (35.5 percent), ranking 48th nationally.
Some a little better statistics:
• 61.9 percent of Mississippi families are liquid asset poor (43.5 percent, ranking 38th nationally.
• Our bankruptcy rate of 4.1 per 1,000 people (3.7) ranks 35th nationally.
Last year, the Scorecard ranked Mississippi 49th; two years ago 47th. This downward trend suggests Mississippi isn’t treading water… instead we’re sinking, even as the national economy and parts of the state economy improve.
State leaders may think the ship of state is riding a crest, but a hole in the bottom will sink it.
Bill Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.