Flat Poverty, Uninsured Rates in Oklahoma Mean State Fell Further Behind (Public Radio Tulsa)

By Matt Trotter

New Census data shows poverty and uninsured rates in Oklahoma were essentially flat from 2015 to 2016. From 2015 to 2016, the state’s poverty rate went from 16.1 to 16.3, while the uninsured rate went from 13.9 to 13.8 percent.

“However, this was happening at a time when, nationally, the poverty rate was going down and the uninsured rate was going down pretty significantly,” said Gene Perry with Oklahoma Policy Institute. “So, we are going in the opposite direction from the rest of the nation.”

Nationally, the poverty rate fell from 14.7 to 14 percent, and the uninsured rate dropped from 9.4 percent to an all-time low of 8.6 percent.

Perry said the state’s lack of progress is not surprising.

“Last year, we rolled back a lot of our Earned Income Tax credit, which was going to low-income, working families living near or under the poverty line,” Perry said. “We took that back, and we’ve done numerous budget cuts to some of these services that are helping people work and stay healthy and stay out of poverty and get a good education.”

The federal poverty line is $24,230 a year for a family of four. About one in six Oklahomans fall below that, but there are significant racial disparities to the state’s poverty rate.

“The poverty rate among blacks in the state is 29 percent, compared to 23.9 percent nationally and compared to just 12 percent of whites in Oklahoma,” Perry said.

Perry said when it comes to the uninsured rate, states that accepted Medicaid expansion, which Oklahoma did not do, continue to see progress.




Margaret (Maggie) den Harder obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Theology from Seattle Pacific University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Originally from the Pacific Northwest area of Washington state, Maggie has called Tulsa home for the past 8 years. Since living in Tulsa, Maggie has worked in the legal field, higher education administration, and the nonprofit sector as well as actively volunteering in the community. Maggie also recently spent time at the City of Tulsa as a consultant and wrote the content for Resilient Tulsa, an action-oriented strategy designed to better equity in Tulsa. Through her work, community involvement, and personal experiences, Maggie is interested in the intersection of the law and mental health and addiction treatment issues, preventative and diversion programs, and maternal mental health, particularly post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. While working at Oklahoma Policy Institute as a research intern, Maggie further developed an interest in family dynamics and stability, economic security-related stress, and intergenerational trauma.

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