Report card time is often one of anxiety even when you know the evaluation criteria against which you’ll be measured and realize you have not done your best (or even made an effort) to meet those expectations. Though we have been able to track our progress and efforts over time we open the report card hoping it will tell a different version of the story.
The CFED (Corporation for Enterprise Development) released earlier this year, the national Assets and Opportunity Scorecard grading individual states (in addition to a rank order of states) on 33 measures. Basically the assessment determines which states have strong policies toward helping residents build and protect assets. As the country continues to pull out of the economic downturn that began in 2008, it is sobering to realize that many individuals and families are financially insecure; having little to no savings and often are one emergency away from poverty’s doorstep.
I opened our report card hoping we’d somehow end up with a different version of the Rhode Island story than the one that, well, we deserve. We didn’t fare so well. Our highest grade? We received a B in Health Care. C was given in policies related to financial assets and income; and education and business and jobs, D’s. We failed in housing and homeownership.
Not a report card to boast about. In fact, it’s something I am deeply concerned about. As any responsible parent, guardian or government knows, it’s time for an intervention.
Dismal enough, these grades really only tell a part of the story. Reading between the lines (and digging a bit deeper into the data made available by the CFED on their website) we unearth the burgeoning and persistent divide between communities of color and gender. In general, whites are far LESS vulnerable. One and a half times more white workers own a business; almost two times as many workers of color are unemployed. And, in every issue area, men are faring better than women. If the data were analyzed looking at communities of color and gender we’d see an even deeper divide. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that our B, C’s and D’s might all spiral downward to failing across the board.
The truth is persistent gender inequality continues to keep women and, even more so, women of color among the most financially vulnerable Rhode Islanders. Underemployment, wage inequity, unfair payday and predatory lending, in addition to 6 years of declining state investments in programs designed to promote economic security among low and moderate income working women are responsible for producing the grades we, in all honesty, rightfully deserve.
Gender equality is the right course, the right intervention! No community or state can thrive when it does not value and ensure the well-being of all its residents. Policies and economic priorities must be examined through a gender lens. The implications of policy made without putting on our gender lens will continue to produce report cards and stories that keep real truths about the economic well-being of Rhode Islanders hidden. More importantly, making policy with blinders on continues to impact the most vulnerable: women and women of color.
Click here to read your state report card http://assetsandopportunity.org/scorecard/, and please, put your gender lens on!