Census data confirms we must do more to help Oklahoma children and families

New data from the Census Bureau shows that poverty in Oklahoma is still well above the national average. In 2018, nearly 1 in 6 Oklahomans (15.6 percent) lived below the poverty line, earning less than $25,100 for a family of four. Although the share of Oklahomans and the share of Americans living in poverty dropped incrementally last year, too many of us are still left behind. 

Oklahoma’s uninsured rate held steady last year. We can do better

Earlier this month, the Census Bureau also released new data on health insurance coverage. Oklahoma’s uninsured rate remained unchanged at 14.2 percent, still significantly above the US average of 8.9 percent and the second-highest uninsured rate in the US, behind only Texas. That’s hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans who can’t see a doctor or fill a prescription, many of whom would finally be able to access the care they need if Oklahoma expanded Medicaid


We must do more to help Oklahoma children

The data clearly show that above all else, we’re leaving our children behind. Greater than 1 in 5 Oklahoma children (21.7 percent) live in poverty, compared to 14.9 percent of working-age adults and just 8.7 percent of Oklahoma seniors.

This data comes on the heels of a new data snapshot showing that more than 1 in 10 Oklahoma children live in concentrated poverty, and that those children are disproportionately Black and Latino. 


Oklahoma’s child uninsured rate also remains stubbornly high at 8.2 percent, nearly sixty percent higher than the national average of 5.2 percent. Since whether children have health insurance is closely linked to whether their parents have health insurance, this is almost certainly due to the state’s failure to expand Medicaid. By increasing access to coverage for working-age Oklahomans, we can ensure that their kids get the care they need, too. 

Our kids don’t grow up in a vacuum. In order to help them, we must advance proven solutions to help Oklahoma families build the foundations they need to thrive.

By investing in our families, communities, and important institutions, we can set our children and our state up to be the best that they can be. 


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in January 2014. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern. A Kansas City native, Carly graduated from the University of Tulsa in December 2013 with a BA in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. She is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification Program, the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking program, and The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa. She previously served as board president for United Campus Ministry at the University of Tulsa. At OK Policy, Carly supervises policy staff and conducts research focusing on health care and the safety net.

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