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.

Combined state and local spending in Oklahoma is $8,781 per person, which is 19 percent below the national average of $10,854. Oklahoma ranked 45th in the nation in total state and local spending per person in 2016, according to the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. Our per-person spending that year was 12 percent below 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 $2,742 per person, more than 30 percent of our total government spending, on education. We spend about nine percent less than the average state, however. Oklahoma spends $2,257 per person for health and social services, 21 percent below the national average of$2,856. This pattern repeats itself for almost every function of government. After the two largest expenditures, we spend from $400 to $800 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 spending is above the national average – by $68 per year per person. The difference is greatest in insurance trusts and environment and housing, where our spending per person is roughly two-thirds of the national average.

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