New Census data shows many still left out of Oklahoma's prosperity

Almost 1 in 4 Oklahoma children lived in families that fell below the poverty line in 2011, according to new Census Bureau data released today. The poverty rate for Oklahomans under 18 was estimated at 23.0 percent in 2011, an increase of 3.1 percentage points since 2001.

The change in poverty rates among all Oklahomans was not statisically significant from 2010 to 2011, but it has increased significantly since 2009, going from 16.2 percent to 17.2 percent. The national poverty rate was 15.9 percent in 2011. Poverty continues to rise in Oklahoma, despite a dropping unemployment rate and other signs of economic recovery. Median household income also remained flat at $43,225 in 2011.

Oklahoma had large disparities in poverty across different racial and ethnic backgrounds. The poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites was 13.0 percent in 2011, compared to 33.7 percent among African-Americans, 21.9 percent among Native Americans, and 28.9 percent among Hispanics.

The percentage of Oklahomans without health insurance was unchanged from previous years at 18.7 percent. The percentage of Oklahomans with public coverage did show statistically significant growth, from 29.4 percent in 2008 to 31.8 percent in 2011. However, over that same period, those with private coverage dropped from 64.2 percent to 61.3 percent.

These latest numbers show that many Oklahomans continue to be left out of the economic recovery. As the Pew Research Center found, it’s harder to get ahead in Oklahoma than in most other states. While we are fortunate to be seeing some bright spots in Oklahoma’s economy, we should be doing much more to ensure that this prosperity extends to all Oklahomans.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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