Snapshot of Oklahomans in poverty

Oklahoma’s Poverty Profile: 2008 is a new two-page fact sheet of graphs and analysis that spotlights some of the salient characteristics of the population living in poverty in our state. The information is all assembled from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which was released this past August.  Among some of the findings presented in the fact sheet:

  • Nearly one in six Oklahomans (15.9 percent) lived below the federal poverty level  in 2008, which was just over $22,000 annual income for a family of four. The state’s 2008  poverty rate was unchanged from 2007 but remained 2.7 percentage points higher than the national average.
  • Forty percent of those in poverty, and 6.4 percent of the total population, had incomes of less than half the poverty level (see chart).


  • Poverty rates are disproportionately high for certain demographic graphs, including children (22 percent), women (17.7 percent) and minorities (28.6 percent for African-Americans, 26.3 percent for Hispanics and 19.8 percent for Native Americans).
  • Just under half (49 percent) of those in poverty aged 16 or over worked for at least part of the year in 2008.
  • Among families with children, the poverty rate is five times higher for families headed by single mothers (43.1 percent) as for families headed by married couples (8.9 percent).

The 2008 poverty figures are of particular concern as they show that even prior to the onset of the economic downturn, a substantial segment of the population was already struggling to get by. And, as we learned from the recently-released Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, many families have little in the way of savings or assets to fall back on when things get tough – the report found 22.7 percent of Oklahomans are asset poor, meaning they lack sufficient net worth to subsist at the poverty level for three months in the absence of income. These findings call attention to the need to preserve and strengthen our income support and safety net programs during these times of economic turmoil.

We appreciate the work of our OSU fall intern, Soddee Knight, in gathering the data and creating the charts for this fact sheet. We hope you’ll download the poverty profile and share it with others who may find it of interest.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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