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.
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.
The total poverty rate for all Oklahomans remained relatively static between 2011 and 2012 but has increased significantly since 2007, from 15.9 percent to 17.2 percent. The national poverty rate in the U.S. was 15.9 percent in 2012. Oklahomans of color are more likely to earn low wages and experience poverty. Poverty disparities across racial and ethnic backgrounds continued in Oklahoma in 2012 from previous years.
The poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites was 13.4 percent, up from 13.0 percent in 2011. The poverty rate for Native Americans increased as well, from 21.9 percent in 2011 to 22.8 percent in 2012. Poverty rates for African American/ blacks decreased significantly in 2012 from 33.7 percent to 29.8 percent. While poverty rates for African American/blacks has decreased markedly from the prior year, it nonetheless remains nearly twice as high as the poverty rate for white Oklahomans. A small decrease also occurred among Hispanics (28.8 percent from 28.9 percent) but it was not significant.
These latest numbers show continued slow progress in the economic and financial status of Oklahomans since 2008. As the Coalition for Human Needs found true on a national scale, economic recovery for Oklahomans is too slow and many are being left behind. Persistent poverty and stagnant incomes highlight why continued funding of programs like SNAP are critical to people living in Oklahoma.