Study: Even middle income in Washoe lack security

An extended job loss could quickly upend the finances of many middle- and upper-income families in Washoe County.

A new study shows that nearly 20 percent of the families in Washoe County with household incomes between $70,000 and $107,000 don’t have enough assets to live at the poverty level — not their current lifestyle, but the poverty level — for three months after a job loss.

Among households with incomes higher than $107,000, the study estimates that 7 percent would be unable to sustain themselves at the poverty level if they didn’t have a paycheck.

The study was commissioned by the Financial Stability Partnership of Northern Nevada and completed by a national nonprofit, the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

Nancy Brown, senior manager of community development with Charles Schwab Bank in Reno and chair of the Financial Stability Partnership, said the concept of “asset poverty” is getting a lot of attention among community development planners.

Unlike the often-cited poverty rate, which is based on a family’s current income, the asset poverty rate measures financial security and the ability of a family to weather a financial crisis.

The Corporation for Enterprise Development found widespread asset poverty in Washoe County.

About 29 percent of the households in the county would be unable to keep themselves above the poverty line after a job loss.

For a family of four, the federal poverty line is income of $23,550 a year, or $1,962 a month. An estimated 13 percent of households in Washoe County earn less than the poverty threshold.

Kasey Widerich, a senior program manager for applied research with the Corporation for Enterprise Development, noted that age, race and ethnicity, marital status and home ownership all are factors in asset poverty.

Among Washoe County residents younger than 35, for instance, an estimated 47 percent face asset poverty. Only 19 percent of people over 55 fall into the category.

About 52 percent of blacks and Hispanics in Reno and Sparks live in asset poverty, compared with 23 percent of whites and 21 percent of Asians.

Among married couples with children, the asset-poverty rate is 38 percent. For single-parent households, it’s 51 percent.

About 56 percent of renters live in asset poverty. The rate is only 9 percent for homeowners.

The asset poverty rate of 29 percent in Washoe County compares with 43 percent statewide and 25 percent across the United States, the Corporation for Enterprise Development says.

A couple of other measurements developed by the Washington, D.C., research group also indicate the shaky finances of many Washoe County families.

About 54 percent of the renters in Washoe County are paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities. That’s a bit higher than the 52.6 percent reported statewide and 52.7 percent reported nationally.

Among homeowners, nearly 33 percent of households in Washoe County are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. That compares with 34 percent statewide and 25 percent nationwide.

Nearly 25 percent of Washoe County residents are without health insurance, the researchers said, which compares with 17 percent nationally.

Among children in low-income families in Washoe County, 29.3 percent aren’t covered by health insurance. Nationally, the average is under 12 percent.

The study was funded by the Walter S. Johnson Foundation.


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