Perspectives on economic security

Last week, the Oklahoma Asset Building Coalition(OkABC) convened a gathering of some 75 individuals from the non-profit sector and from state, local, and tribal government agencies for a day-long meeting on “Economic Security for Oklahomans: Asset Building Approaches for Assisting Families with Low Incomes”. The meeting flowed out of a series of regional listening sessions held over the past month, which brought people together in Tahlequah, Enid, Lawton, Hugo, Oklahoma City, and Shawnee to discuss the major challenges that individuals, families, and communities face in achieving economic security.

While the Coalition has a particular focus on how assets – whether tangible, financial, or personal – can help move people towards economic security, the barriers identified as standing in people’s way to being economically secure were far-ranging. Educational attainment, unstable families, lack of jobs, and substance abuse were most frequently cited over the course of the listening sessions as creating obstacles to success.¬†Looking at existing programs and policies, the most significant gaps were seen to be in the areas of housing, system coordination and communication, and asset accumulation policies. Education, employment, substance abuse, and prisoner re-entry were also identified by many participants as areas where current programs and policies fell short.

The meeting allowed participants, working in groups, to select one area where there are currently gaps in programs and policies, and to begin to sketch out a strategy to address the problem. Although the ideas and strategies were far-ranging, one common theme was the need for better coordination of service between the wide network of public and non-profit providers involved in helping families – better information about the resources out there, better communication between agencies, and a more holistic approach to serving the needs of individuals and families. Many of the strategies had a particular angle in rural communities and for Native tribes, but the challenges across the state were broadly similar.

OkABC, which is led by a steering committee of which I am a member, will continue its efforts to share, learn about, and expand strategies for promoting economic security and building assets. This fall, the Coalition, in conjunction with the University of Washington School of Social Work, will be releasing an updated version of the Self-Sufficiency Standard, a report that calculates the amount of income families in each county require to meet the cost of their basic needs. The last Oklahoma Self-Sufficiency Standard report was issued in 2002.

Anyone interested in being part of the work of the Coalition should contact Steven Shepelwich, Senior Community Development Advisor with the Oklahoma City branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, If you have thoughts on these issues, feel free to post a comment here on the blog.


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.

One thought on “Perspectives on economic security

  1. While I am 100% in sympathy with the objective of helping people at all points on the income and wealth spectra to build assets for themselves, I suspect that those who care about this have not exposed themselves to the most important book ever written on the topic of poverty and wealth.

    It is not a new book, but it has never been matched for the depth and correctness of its analysis.

    And without the knowledge of the underlying cause of poverty, all you’re going to do is apply small bandages, not fix the problem.

    The book is entitled “Progress & Poverty.” It is online, both in its original form and in a modernized abridgment. The subtitle for the former was “An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth … The Remedy” The subtitle for the modern abridgment is “Why there are recessions and poverty amid plenty — and what to do about it.” See for the latter, and for the former.

    You’ll also find some interesting analyses of older Self-Sufficiency Standard studies at the latter site.

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