Economic opportunity is about the presence or absence of opportunities and barriers that affect an individual’s ability to realize economic sufficiency and stability. A multitude of interconnected factors impact an individual’s ability to achieve economic well-being, including many that are beyond the individual’s control. Some of these factors are:
SYSTEMIC & LOCAL FACTORS
Availability of jobs paying living wage
Access to non-predatory lending establishments
Minimum wage standards
Economic status of personal and professional networks.
An equal set of opportunities to succeed economically does not present itself to all people, nor do all people face the same barriers to economic success.
Disparities in opportunities and barriers to economic success, along with the resulting disparities in outcomes are explored throughout the indicators of the Economic Opportunity theme.
The Business Development topic of the Economic Opportunity theme scored 17.33, the lowest topic score this year, as a result of two indicators with scores of 1 – those focused on business executives by race and the distribution of payday loan and banking establishments.
The lack of women and people of color, especially African Americans, in executive level positions in Tulsa is indicative of a persistent imbalance in the distribution of power and wealth in our community.
The preponderance of payday lending establishments and the lack of banks and credit unions in North Tulsa exacerbate barriers to financial stability due to high interest rate loans and limited opportunity for wealth accumulation. The national average payday loan annual percentage rate is nearly 400% – many times higher than the average credit card interest rate. Payday loan customers end up paying exorbitant amounts in fees and finance charges – money that could instead be saved and drawing interest.
With a score of 36.00, the Employment topic addresses disparity in unemployment, distribution of jobs, and participation in high wage occupations.
Availability of jobs in close proximity to home is of key importance to individuals who don’t own a reliable vehicle and don’t have convenient access to public transportation. Recent and continuing strategic expansions of bus lines across the city including expanding services in North Tulsa, an area that has fewer jobs, should remove some of the barriers residents face in finding employment.
One part of equitable economic development is good paying jobs with benefits. People of color in Tulsa are less likely to be employed in higher paying occupations than are Whites. Those are the occupations that generally have annual earnings above $65,000 in Tulsa, and include: Management, business, and financial occupations, computer, engineering, and science occupations, legal occupations, and health diagnosing and treating practitioners and other technical occupations. Employment in these fields better equip workers to support themselves and their families without outside assistance and to build wealth.
The indicators in the Income topic, with an equality score of 39.00, focus on disparities in income based on race, geography, and educational attainment. Income inequality is a nationwide crisis that is impacting people of all demographics, but in Tulsa it is especially apparent for residents of North Tulsa, people of color, and persons with a high school diploma or less. The three indicators frame income in three different ways.
Earning a living wage means having a level of income that allows one to meet basic needs without needing to rely on outside assistance. That level is represented by 200% of the poverty level for this analysis, and is the equivalent of $43,440 for a family of three. Though showing incremental progress, residents of North Tulsa are about half as likely to earn a living wage as are residents of South Tulsa. The median household income for White Tulsa households is nearly twice that of African American households. Both of these measures have implications for the capacity of under-resourced families to afford basic necessities like food, housing, and healthcare.
The final indicator in this topic reveals that persons with a high school diploma or less are more than four times as likely to live in poverty as those with at least a bachelor’s degree. The poverty level for a family of three is equivalent to earning a wage of just over $10 an hour.