National Think Tank Finds US Households Getting Poorer, Calls for College Savings Incentives

More than one in four U.S. households are asset poor, meaning they lack savings or other assets to cover basic expenses for three months if a layoff or other emergency leads to loss of income, according to the 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard published by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).

The Scorecard also shows 43% of households are “liquid asset poor,” which excludes assets such as homes that can’t be easily converted to cash.

On the topic of education, the CFED offers a mixed bag:

“While Scorecard data show that K-12 math and reading proficiency increased between 2007 and 2011, proficiency remains extremely low: Only 35% of 8th graders are proficient in math and just 34% are proficient in reading. College attainment is up by 3% since 2007 and the gap between attainment for whites and people of color has decreased by 2%—31% of whites and 20% of people of color now hold four-year degrees. Unfortunately, increased college attainment has been coupled with increased college debt: The average debt for graduating college seniors has risen 19% since 2007 to $25,250.”

The CFED offers a dozen policy recommendations including college savings incentives. “Escalating costs discourage low-income students from pursuing postsecondary education,” the D.C.-based nonprofit notes. “College savings not only help pay for college, they also increase aspirations and college success. States can help families save by matching their deposits into 529 college savings accounts and removing barriers to saving such as fees and minimum deposit requirements.”

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