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.

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

Watch This: The Racial Wealth Gap in America

The racial wealth gap has been a hot topic lately on our blog.  The United States remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet escaping poverty and achieving prosperity remains out of reach for millions of Americans.  Too many people of color, striving to make a better life for themselves and their families, face significant barriers to building wealth and less access to opportunities that are widely available for Whites.

This 3-minute video from the Urban Institute sheds more light on the issue with a simple, compelling illustration.  This animation is based on research by Eugene Steuerle, Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, and Sisi Zhang of the Urban Institute.

Click here to read OK Policy’s paper, ‘Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building Equity in Oklahoma.

Watch This Too:

7 Things You (Probably) Don't Know About Affirmative Action

by | September 5th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, State Questions | Comments (15)

One of the state questions on the general election ballot this November, SQ 759, proposes a ban on affirmative action in state employment, education, and contracting.  Ironically, supporters of the ban and SQ 759 oppose practices that are already illegal in Oklahoma, or never existed in the first place.  This post sets the record straight on affirmative action and considers carefully the unintended consequences of outlawing equal opportunity initiatives.

1. No ‘quotas’ for hiring or admitting minorities

Many people mistakenly believe that affirmative action is a quota system, where people are hired based on a ‘count’ of minorities that must be selected.  Public hiring quotas and contract preferences have been illegal in Oklahoma since the early 1980s.  The State Regents for Higher Education have never used minority admissions quotas.  The myth is so pervasive, even several legislators think that SQ 759 would eliminate quotas.

What is affirmative action?  In Oklahoma, state agencies report annually on the demographic make-up of their workforce, and are encouraged to improve outreach during the hiring process among demographics they find poorly represented.   The state Office of Personnel Management says affirmative action involves simply, “identifying departments in which the number of women or ethnic minorities is below that for the general workforce, then recruiting qualified candidates to address the situation.”

continue reading 7 Things You (Probably) Don't Know About Affirmative Action

Five reasons poverty persists in Oklahoma

by | July 25th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (11)

Oklahoma children 1936, Dorothea Lange

Poverty has been a part of Oklahoma’s landscape since before statehood.  Early settlers faced enormous odds – drought, food insecurity, and nonexistent infrastructure – and possessed few material resources.  During the Great Depression, the state lost nearly half a million residents to out-migration induced by devastating poverty and famine.

Today, one in six Oklahomans (or 16.9 percent) live in poverty and nearly a third of the state’s counties have a poverty rate of 20 percent or more. Even amidst rising tides of economic prosperity, poverty continues, from one generation to the next.

The reasons are varied and complex, but stem from the material effects of poverty’s central feature – difficulty meeting basic human needs.  Here are five aspects of Oklahoma’s social, economic, and political landscape that explain poverty’s persistence.

continue reading Five reasons poverty persists in Oklahoma

A poison pill in Oklahoma's work-sharing program

by | July 23rd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (1)

Image from CLASP

Persistent long-term unemployment has been one of the more insidious facets of the recent recession. As employers face declining demand for their products and services, a consequential reduction in their need for workers has left many without jobs.

Layoffs are an all-or-nothing response to low demand, one unfortunately encouraged by the traditional unemployment insurance system. As stated in Bloomberg News:

 Here’s the problem: If you cut 10 percent of your workers, they qualify for unemployment insurance, but if you keep all your workers and cut their hours by 10 percent, there’s no parallel insurance. By treating the two actions differently, the government tilts the playing field toward cutting people rather than hours.

There is an alternative solution: “work-sharing” programs that allow employees to voluntarily reduce their wages in exchange for partial unemployment support. This kind of program already exists in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s work-sharing legislation includes an unprecedented and needlessly restrictive condition that keeps this tool away from almost every employer in the state.

continue reading A poison pill in Oklahoma's work-sharing program

For Oklahoma jobs, don't mess with success

by | April 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (1)

Photo by flickr user Tess Aquarium used under a Creative Commons license.

This post is by OK Policy intern Emily Callen. Emily is a senior at the University of Tulsa, where she is pursuing a major in Biology and a minor in Economics. A longtime wonk-in-training, Emily has for years been boring her college friends by quoting statistics at parties.

When I grow up, graduate college, and get a job (in two months), I want to live in a state with an abundance of job opportunities. That’s why I’ve decided to stay in Oklahoma. Despite rumors about the mystical, job-creating powers of eliminating the income tax, the numbers show that Oklahoma is attracting businesses and creating jobs, income tax and all.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December 2011, the unemployment rate was 8.5 percent for the nation as a whole. In Oklahoma, it was 6.1 percent. In Texas, our notorious neighbor, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. Oklahoma’s personal income growth rate remains among the highest in the nation. Between the first quarter of 2010 and the third quarter of 2011, Tulsa was one of only 5 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas to experience manufacturing employment growth greater than 10 percent. Oklahoma City had manufacturing growth between 5 and 10 percent in the same period, according to Brookings.

continue reading For Oklahoma jobs, don't mess with success

Watch This: Long term unemployment, 1967-2011

by | December 1st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (2)

This animated graph, produced by the TellTaleChart, illustrates the unprecedented spike in long-term unemployment during and after the Great Recession.  The current median duration of unemployment (or weeks out of work) represents a dramatic departure from decades of unemployment trends.  As the producer glumly observes, “The median duration of unemployment was already at 20 weeks when the recession began.  It climbed to over 25 weeks in the summer of 2010 and has settled in, now almost three years into the recovery, at well above 20 weeks.  This of course is no recovery at all.”  The duration of unemployment in Oklahoma nearly doubled between 2006 and 2010, with the latest data putting the median weeks out of work in the state at 12.3 weeks.


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

Packed Oklahoma prisons, rising costs

Creativity & Learning

The Great Recession

Making Ends Meet: The Medicare Generation

A tale of two (Oklahoma) cities

[The Weekly Wonk] October 14, 2011

by | October 14th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week at OK Policy, we interviewed Steven Dow about recent controversy at the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services.  We pointed out that state leaders can’t rely on growth revenue to fund infrastructure repair and other priorities if they continue to cut (or even eliminate) the income tax.

Former State Treasurer Scott Meacham explains on the OK Policy blog that Oklahoma’s Rural and Small Business Tax Credit initiatives end up costing the state hundreds of millions in tax revenues.  The blog also featured a post on asset-building as an anti-poverty strategy.  Our director David Blatt was a guest this week on Studio Tulsa, discussing the importance of the income tax in adequately funding state government and essential services for Oklahomans.  Oklahoma Policy Institute’s director was also quoted in two articles this week on federal income tax liability for low-income households and the role of unemployment benefits during a recession.

In the Know, Policy Notes

Numbers of the Week

  • 16.43 inches – Amount statewide average precipitation was below normal this water year (October 1-September 30), the 2nd driest year on record for Oklahoma.
  • 1,865 – Number of foreclosures in Oklahoma in August, down 5.8 percent from the same month in 2010
  • $31,600 – Minimum amount in salary and fringe benefits earned by a first-year Oklahoma public school teacher with a bachelor’s degree, 2011-2012
  • 80.3 – Number of primary care physicians per 100,000 people in Oklahoma, compared to 120.5 nationally.  Oklahoma ranked 49th in availability of primary care physicians, 2010
  • 29 percent – Percentage of Oklahoma’s K-12 children who are on their own after school, 2009

Oklahoma's Unemployment Gap (Part 3): Equal opportunities for secure employment

by | October 4th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (3)

This post is the third in a three-part series on “Oklahoma’s Unemployment Gap,” examining the persistence of racial disparities in unemployment. Part One introduced the unemployment gap and presents preliminary descriptive data on state labor market trends by race. Part Two explores underlying and immediate causes for the state’s black-white unemployment gap and suggests reasons for its persistence. Part Three evaluates solutions for addressing and closing the gap.

The first two posts in this series established the existence of a nation-wide, decades-old disparity in the unemployment rate between black and white workers. Black Oklahomans were unemployed at more than twice the rate (13.1 percent) of their white counterparts (5.9 percent) in 2010. The unemployment rate among black men is exceptionally high, about two and half times higher in Oklahoma.  While the reasons for the disparity are numerous, our last post focused on two explanations around which evidence seems to converge:  the high incarceration rate among blacks and discrimination in the hiring process.  This post explores solutions for closing the unemployment gap in Oklahoma, with an emphasis on reducing incarceration rates and strategies for preserving equal opportunity employment.

continue reading Oklahoma's Unemployment Gap (Part 3): Equal opportunities for secure employment

Interview with Chad Wilkerson: Oklahoma economy still looking 'pretty solid'

by | September 6th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (2)

Continuing high unemployment rates, weak economic growth, and stock market volatility are all contributing to concern and uncertainty about the national economy. But how’s Oklahoma faring in these turbulent times? I recently spoke with Chad Wilkerson, the Oklahoma City Branch Executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City about conditions in the Sooner State. This is an edited and abridged transcript of our conversation on August 24, 2011.

David Blatt: How would you characterize the current state of Oklahoma’s economy?

Chad Wilkerson: I would say things are still pretty solid for us. We’ve had fairly solid job growth over the past year. Unemployment’s down to 5.5 percent, and in some parts of the state… it’s less than 5 percent.

However, I think that measure may be overstating the degree to which we’ve recovered from the recent recession. There’s been a fairly sizable number of people drop out of the labor force in the last couple of years. This has been interesting me of late because of the fact that Oklahoma’s unemployment rates are down to a level that many economists consider full employment levels, 5 – 6 percent. But if the same share of the adult population was looking for jobs today as in 2007, our unemployment rate for the state would be a little over 8 percent. That’s probably too high because I think the share of the population that was looking for jobs in 2007 was also a bit abnormal – the boom was going on, perhaps too many people were looking for jobs from a productivity standpoint. So our actual unemployment is probably somewhere between 5 and 8 percent. We’re probably not quite fully recovered, but we’re still doing much better than the nation.

continue reading Interview with Chad Wilkerson: Oklahoma economy still looking 'pretty solid'

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