Archive for 2014

Nearly half of Oklahoma households are one misstep away from financial insecurity

by | January 30th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security, Poverty | Comments (0)

downloadDespite an improving national economy and a (deceptively) low statewide average unemployment rate, nearly half (49.1 percent) of Oklahoma households are in a persistent state of financial insecurity, according to a report released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). The percentage of households with little or no savings to cover emergencies or to invest in building a better life has jumped from last year’s 43.8 percent level.

CFED’s 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard defines these financially insecure residents as “liquid asset poor,” which means they lack adequate savings to cover basic expenses at the federal poverty level for even three months in the event of an emergency such as a job loss or health crisis.

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[Read This] Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much

by | December 19th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Poverty, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

CROP-colorbook1110I had the opportunity recently to hear Princeton psychologist Eldar Shafir talk about the research and principles behind his new book (co-written with Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan), “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.”  The premise of the book is simple and manages to elegantly explain volumes of research on poverty through one compelling idea:  scarcity.

When a person lacks something they need, the effect of such scarcity changes their thinking and behavior in consistent and predictable ways.  In the case of poverty, we’re talking about people who lack sufficient financial resources.  But the scarcity effect outlined in this book holds true for people who lack other things they need – like time or calories.

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2012 New Census data shows stagnant incomes, many Oklahomans still living in poverty

by | September 19th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (0)

This post was written by OK Policy intern Annie Mitchell (with a little help from Carly Putnam).  Annie is a native Tulsan pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at OU-Tulsa.  Carly is an undergraduate at the University of Tulsa majoring in Sociology and Women’s & Gender Studies. 

More than 1 of every 6 Oklahomans lived in families that fell below the poverty line in 2012, according to Census Bureau data released today.  For Oklahoma children, the poverty rate is now 23.8 percent, up 1.7 percentage points since 2007.  A 3-person household is considered below the poverty line if their income is $19,090 or less.  Median household incomes in Oklahoma have dropped significantly in the last five years, from $46,031 in 2007 to $44,312 in 2012.  

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This data indicates that despite the state’s low unemployment rate and rising average incomes, the economic recovery has left many Oklahoma families behind.  Furthermore, impending cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or ‘food stamps’, coupled with the state’s refusal to accept Medicaid expansion to cover 100,000 uninsured Oklahomans in poverty, will put further pressure on family budgets and make financial stability harder to attain.

continue reading 2012 New Census data shows stagnant incomes, many Oklahomans still living in poverty

[Closing The Gap, Part 5] Past is future: Intergenerational wealth

by | August 28th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

This is the fifth post in a running series based on our recent report, Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building Equity in Oklahoma, which assesses the racial wealth gap and proposes solutions for closing that gap through asset-building. Previous posts detailed disparities in foundational assets (health, education, transportation) generative assets (employment and income) and regenerative assets (savings and homeownership).

The opportunity gap has remarkable staying power.  From generation to generation, wealth disparities by race are persistent.  This post explores the intergenerational forces underlying this inertia and the role of past events in determining future outcomes.

We know that infants born into families that can’t meet their basic needs are more likely to end up on a lower rung of the economic ladder than infants born into families with the means to satisfy their every need.  That’s because our ability to build and accumulate wealth contracts or expands in proportion to our opportunities.  

This does not deny anyone’s capacity to work their way up (or down) the economic ladder regardless of their original circumstances.  Many people do.  But it’s similarly illogical to assume that anyone who is asset-rich must have worked harder and made better choices than anyone who is asset-poor (precisely the conclusion of a recent Oklahoman Editorial).

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Am I such a danger to the people? (Guest Post: Camille Landry)

by | August 15th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Neglected Oklahoma, Poverty | Comments (4)

camille_landryCamille Landry is a writer, activist, and advocate for social justice who lives in Oklahoma City. This is the fifth in Camille’s series, “Neglected Oklahoma”, focused on Oklahomans who find themselves in a position where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by. For previous installments, click here,  here and here.  The people whose stories we tell are real people and their stories are true. Names have been changed to protect privacy. 

David T. Johnson is incarcerated by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections – one of over 25,000 people in the state to have that distinction.  David grew up in small-town Oklahoma.  He started drinking and smoking pot at the age of 17, then moved on to heavier drugs like meth, cocaine and pills.  After a few juvenile run-ins with the law he decided to clean up his life and quit using drugs.  

He enrolled in college to study mechanical engineering and managed to earn good grades while holding down a full time job.  Things were looking up, but the chance of a relapse is an ever present reality for addicts.  Stress from family problems eventually triggered a relapse of David’s addiction.  Despite the setback in his recovery, he stayed on track to graduate with an associate’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.  Until the day he got into an argument with his girlfriend in a convenience store parking lot.

continue reading Am I such a danger to the people? (Guest Post: Camille Landry)

[Closing The Gap, Part 4] Regenerative assets: Why you need money to make money

by | July 10th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

This is the fourth post in a running series based on our recent report, Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building Equity in Oklahoma, which assesses the racial wealth gap and proposes solutions for closing that gap through asset-building.  Previous posts explored historical roots of the gap and detailed disparities in foundational assets (health, education, transportation) and generative assets (employment and income).  This post assesses disparities in regenerative assets, a critical component of building economic security over a lifetime, because they provide Oklahoma families with a wealth base that generates income independent of their labor and savings to fall back on in emergencies.

Regenerative assets have appreciative value and/or produce income or interest, e.g. simple savings, homeownership.  The income and equity earned with regenerative assets also enables households to make other key investments (in property, education and training, and businesses) that grow wealth and move them up the economic ladder.  They also produce a powerful effect on personal habits and expectations, instilling in savers the value of long-term goals and interests rather than immediate wants and needs.

continue reading [Closing The Gap, Part 4] Regenerative assets: Why you need money to make money

Watch This: The Line

by | December 19th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (1)

The Line documents the stories of people across the country, from the suburbs of Chicago to the economically devastated Gulf Coast, living at or below the poverty line.  Emmy Award-winning producer Linda Midgett chronicles poverty in America straight from the source, and illuminates how the Great Recession and years of stagnate wages have put working people in an increasingly precarious financial position.  As one film subject explains, “The line. The place the people on the bottom are trying to get to, and the place the people on the top are trying to keep from going below.”

 Click here to watch the full 45-minute documentary online or view the 3-minute trailer below.

Poverty in America — It’s not what you think.

View other clips from OKPolicy’s Watch This video series:

Marriage won’t end poverty

by | November 28th, 2012 | Posted in Children and Families, Poverty | Comments (1)

Photo by Lauren Heavner used under a Creative Commons License.

Poverty in Oklahoma is at a six-year high. Recent Census numbers showed that more than one in six Oklahomans – and almost one in four children – live in poverty. Even as we are lauded for our economic successes, the chronically high poverty rate shows that large numbers of Oklahomans are not getting ahead.

Many factors contribute to keeping people in poverty, including low wages, lack of education, mass incarceration, racial discrimination, food insecurity, and limited access to health care. Yet to hear some tell it, these long-lasting problems have a simple solution: marriage.

Their argument rests on the fact that a high percentage of single-parent families live in poverty. However, millions of married Americans do, too.

A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shines a light on this often-ignored population of married families in poverty.

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Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building equity in Oklahoma

by | November 19th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Click here for a copy of a presentation of this research to the OKDHS Practice and Policy Lecture Series on 4/25/2013

Oklahoma’s prosperity depends on the financial success and economic achievement of the people who call it home.  For a state that has always been rich in natural resources and entrepreneurial spirit, the future continues to look bright.  Yet we’ve also inherited a legacy of discrimination that historically impeded economic opportunity for people of color and created a wealth deficit that persists today.  A report released today by Oklahoma Policy Institute,  Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building Equity in Oklahoma, outlines an equity agenda for the future, one that acknowledges the racial wealth gap and income inequality as products of our collective history, culture, and public policies.  

When wealth is measured in terms of financial assets, i.e. a home or savings account, White households in the U.S. have nearly twenty times more wealth than Black households and eighteen times more wealth than Hispanic households.  These are the largest gaps in racial wealth observed since the government began publishing data a quarter century ago.  Two out of every five, or 39.1 percent, of households of color in Oklahoma are asset poor, nearly double the rate for White households. The asset poverty rate measures the percentage of households without sufficient assets to subsist at the poverty level for at least three months if their income was disrupted.  

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Oklahoma’s Poverty Profile 2011

by | October 16th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (0)

Poverty in Oklahoma reached a six-year high in 2011, according to data released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau.  The data revealed that more than one in six Oklahomans – and almost one in four children – now live in poverty.

Oklahoma Policy Institute released our annual guide to help make sense of the new poverty numbers, a concise two-page fact sheet highlighting state-level poverty statistics by age, sex, race, education, work status and family status.  Oklahoma’s Poverty Profile 2011 is the definitive guide to key aspects of poverty in our state.  Check out these other recent blog posts and publications on poverty:

We also recently launched an online database for state and county-level statistics.  Our free interactive data app is available 24-hours a day and serves as a comprehensive hub for publicly available state and local data for Oklahoma.  Use the database to view, explore, and download statistics across a range of topics, including income, crime, demographics, health, education, and much more.

Access poverty data from the American Community Survey at the U.S. Census Bureau.

Access Oklahoma Poverty Profile archives from 2007-2010 here.

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