Asset poverty data shows many have no cushion to fall back on

As the economic downturn continues to take its toll in Oklahoma and across the nation, how financially prepared are families to deal with extended periods of unemployment and underemployment. Newly-released data (PDF) from CFED that focuses on “asset poverty” confirms that many Oklahomans have little or no financial cushion on which to fall back.

Asset poverty is a measure that establishes a minimum threshold of wealth needed for household security:

A household is asset poor if it has insufficient net worth to support itself at the federal poverty for three months in the absence of income. Asset poor households would not have enough savings or wealth to provide for basic needs during a sudden job loss or a medical emergency.

Their data estimates that over a quarter of Oklahoma households, 28.8 percent, were asset poor in 2006, slightly above the national average of 26.6 percent. Minority households were considerably more likely to have minimal or no assets, with 38.9 percent of Native American households, 43.2 percent of Latinos, and 50.1 percent of Blacks or African-Americans falling below the asset poverty threshold. Younger households, single-parent households, and renters are among the categories most likely to be asset poor. The data also reveal that while a majority of households with income below the poverty level are also asset poor, asset poverty can extend up the income ladder: nearly one in five Oklahoma households with income between $44,801 and $68,800 were estimated to be asset poor.

This data is a supplement to the 2009-2010 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard project, of which OK Policy is a state partner. For all the data, which looks at financial assets, see this page of our website or this page from the CFED website. OK Policy’s recent issue brief,  More Than Just Getting By (PDF), serves as an overview of asset building and identifies policy proposals for expanding opportunity and strengthening Oklahoma’s middle class.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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