How Oklahoma Spending Compares

How Oklahoma Spending Compares

Oklahoma invests much less than the national average on nearly all of our public services. We can start by looking at what we spend and how our spending compares to other states. The figure below, which looks at spending per person for each of the categories tracked by U.S. Census Bureau data, helps us understand both.


The figure suggests two important themes that are essential to understanding public spending in Oklahoma.

  • Our total spending and our spending for every public service except transportation is below national averages; and
  • We spend substantially more on education and health and social services than in any other area.

Oklahoma state and local governments spend much less than the national average for all government services except transportation. Combined annual state and local government spending in Oklahoma is $8,373 per person, which is 17.2 percent below the national average of $10,116. Oklahoma ranked 46th in the nation in total state and local spending per person in 2013, according to the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. Our per-person spending that year was 8 percent less than the average of our surrounding states. We invest less per capita in elementary and secondary education,  social services, and public safety than the nation as a whole.

Oklahoma spends $2,520 per person, more than 30 percent of our total government spending, on education. We spend about 10 percent less than the average state, however. The difference is similar for  spending on health and social services, where Oklahoma spends $2,197 per person and the national average is $2,434. This pattern repeats itself for almost every domain. After the two largest expenditures, we spend from $400 to $700 per person annually on a range of essential services — public safety, environment and housing, utilities, and insurance trusts. Transportation is the only domain in which Oklahoma’s per person spending is above the national average – by $36 per year. The difference is greatest in insurance trusts and environment and housing, where our spending per person is only two-thirds of the national average.

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