A comprehensive new report shows continued financial struggles by many Americans. Households in Washington state are doing better than most.
Prosperity Now, previously called the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), for years has tracked more than 50 yardsticks to show an annual picture of how residents of each state are faring in financial terms. The D.C.-based non-profit focuses on increasing opportunity for low-income families and advocating for best practices.
The stock market has been on a tear, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average topping 22,000 today. But that’s mostly a window into the wealthy and institutional investors. Meanwhile, one in six U.S. households have zero or negative net worth. Wages are growing very slowly for many.
Given the progressive noise here and the real spike in housing costs, you’d think Washington would be a mess. But not so, according to the 2017 Prosperity Now report. Washington ranks No. 8 overall in the financial health of households; No. 5 in financial assets and income; 17 in businesses and jobs; 28 in homeownership and housing, and 8 in healthcare.
Washington’s ranking has improved every year since 2012.
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The worst-off states were Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and New Mexico. In the Northwest, Alaska’s overall ranking was No. 15, Idaho’s No. 24 and Oregon’s No. 20. The top state in outcomes was Vermont.
Digging deeper, nearly 66 percent of Washington households had emergency savings. Inequality was relatively tame, with the richest 20 percent making 4.43 times the income of the poorest 20 percent (it was 5.25 times in Mississippi, 5.39 times in Massachusetts). The Seattle metro area’s inequality compared favorably with other technopolises — better than San Francisco and Boston, in line with Austin and Denver. It was slightly lower than Phoenix, which has a low-wage economy based on real estate and back offices.
Only 12.8 percent of positions here were low-income jobs (vs. nearly 28 percent in Arizona, with a similar population size to Washington). Only 3 percent of low-income children here are uninsured (more than 11 percent in Arizona). More than 83 percent of Washington households have saving accounts.
In the less good, 48 percent of renters in the state pay more than 30 percent of their income for shelter. Still, that’s almost the same percentage as Arizona, which has virtually no land-use restrictions and abundant sprawl. Housing affordability is a national issue.
The report contains a wealth of data, as well as policy responses. You can find it here.
Today’s Econ Haiku:
The Dow, it’s the tops
Can’t even hear it trickling
Down at the bottom