Underemployment, low-wage jobs norm in Ohio

Staff report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even though the national unemployment rate has dropped to 5 percent in recent months, the underemployment rate in Ohio remains stubbornly high with an increasing number of state residents stuck in low-wage jobs, according to a new report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).

Indeed, 45 percent of Ohio’s households are locked into a “new normal” of perpetual financial insecurity, unable to build the savings needed to last even three months in the event of an emergency. The research, reflected in CFED’s 2016 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, also found that state policies are doing little to improve the financial security of Ohioans.

The situation is most dire for households of color. African-American and Latino households in Ohio 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 Ohio are valued over five times higher than businesses owned by African-American residents.

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. This year’s 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. When it comes to outcomes, Vermont ranks at the top of the country overall, while Mississippi ranks last.

Ohio’s 36th-place outcome ranking marks a slight worsening from its 2015 ranking. The state received a “D” in the Businesses & Jobs issue area, a reflection of the state’s relatively low microenterprise ownership rate (14.4 percent), and large gender disparity in business ownership, as men are 1.4 times more likely than women to own businesses. Ohio also received a “D” in the Housing & Homeownership category, driven by a high foreclosure rate (2.43 percent), high percentage of high-cost mortgage loans (7.42 percent) and large racial disparities in homeownership rates, which are 1.8 times higher for white residents than for residents of color. The state received “C” grades in both Financial Assets & Income and Education. The one relative bright spot was Health Care, in which Ohio earned an “A,” in part because of its low uninsured rate (9.8 percent) and high rate of employer-provided insurance coverage (63.2 percent).

The scorecard also evaluates 69 different policy measures to determine how well states are addressing the challenges facing their residents. Overall, Ohio has enacted only 29 of the 69 policies, illustrating that much can be done to boost the financial security of the state’s residents. In Education, for example, Ohio ranked near the bottom (47th out of 51), having only adopted three of the 18 policies evaluated by the scorecard. In other policy areas, Ohio fared better, ranking fifth in Health Care, sixth in Businesses & Jobs, seventh in Housing & Homeownership and 12th in Financial Assets & Income.

Across the nation, the scorecard found scant evidence that federal and state governments were willing to embrace policies that would open new doors to greater financial security for those struggling the most in the American economy. Without such commitments, most low-income individuals — particularly people of color — find themselves falling farther behind.

Among the key findings from this year’s scorecard:

• Homeownership rates remain at historic lows, falling to 63.1 percent for the eighth consecutive year of decline and contributing to crowding and rising costs in the rental market.

• Fully 14.3 percent of adults say there was a time in the past year that they needed to see a doctor but could not because of cost. The statistics are worse for individuals of color with one in four Latino adults and one in five African-American adults saying money concerns prevented them from seeing a doctor.

• Although both high school graduation rates (82.3 percent) and four-year college degree attainment (30.1 percent) increased from 2013 to 2014, racial disparities remain severe. Less than 20 percent of African-American adults and fewer than 15 percent of Latino adults hold four-year degrees.

• While the national unemployment rate has dropped to 5 percent, the underemployment rate is twice as high, at 10.8 percent. What’s more, one-in-four jobs is in a low-wage occupation.

• Building up even a small amount of savings is a challenge for almost half the country. Some 44 percent of households are “liquid asset poor,” meaning they have less than three months of savings to live at the poverty level if they suffer an income loss.

• Business ownership among both men and women (21.4 percent and 17.1 percent of the labor force, respectively) declined from 2007 to 2012, even as average business value for both groups increased. Yet female-owned businesses still are worth only a third the value of the average male-owned business — $239,486 to $726,141, respectively.

“There certainly are positive signs that the nation’s economy is improving,” noted Andrea Levere, president of CFED. “But there also is very compelling evidence that many households are stuck in a financial hole and are struggling to dig themselves out. State governments can play a critical role in helping them move on to firmer ground and a more prosperous future.”

To access the complete scorecard, visit http://scorecard.cfed.org.

Staff report