Weekly Wonk: Housing stats show state disparities | Reducing Oklahoma’s incarceration rate | More

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Housing stats show state disparitiesHomeownership has traditionally been a cornerstone of the American dream. For many of our friends and neighbors, though, that piece of the dream is increasingly out of reach. A growing number of Oklahomans are finding the decision between renting and buying a home has already been made for them. The odds are stacked against today’s potential homebuyers due to skyrocketing home prices, stagnant wages for low-income workers, rising costs for child care for families, student loan debt for many younger Oklahomans, and more. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Interim study examines ways to reduce Oklahoma’s incarceration levels (Capitol Update): It’s still early to know if major criminal legal reform is going to be on the legislative agenda for next session. I think there is a sincere desire by legislators to bring Oklahoma’s prison population to a more rational level if they can figure out how to do it safely. But there are a couple of problems (at least) that may get in the way. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Quote of the Week

“I think probably everybody in this room agrees that we need to overhaul — we need to reclassify, we need to restructure our criminal code — but starting from … a place that would hold our prison population constant, that is not a neutral position. It is a position that is in favor of very punitive and excessive sentencing.”

-Ryan Gentzler, Research Director for OK Policy [Public Radio Tulsa]

Editorial of the Week

Everyone is to blame for spreading misinformation

Nearly every American believes the spread of misinformation is a problem, but no one wants to take the blame. As divisions and polarizations continue to grow, few in the U.S. appear to self-reflect on their own online behaviors, habits and attitudes.

A recent poll from The Pearson Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research served as a bookend last week to a Facebook whistleblower’s claims that the company prioritizes posts generating outrage.

The falsehoods and rancor flourishing in the social media world spill over into the actual world. That’s the underlying worry among congressional lawmakers examining the practices of Facebook. It’s possibly the only area of bipartisanship.

The poll found a whopping 95% of Americans say misinformation is a problem when trying to learn about current events or issues. Of those, 81% call it a “major problem.” The majority (91%) blame social media, companies and 93% blame users of those platforms. Strangely, only 20% of Americans are worried that they are part of spreading misinformation. That’s a lot of people excusing themselves.

Research has been emerging that shows many Americans, sometimes unknowingly, share falsehoods. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study in 2018 found that people, not bots, spread false news faster than truth. Bots play some role, but human behavior leads the proliferation.

Last year, an MIT Sloan study found that people sharing fake news were usually distracted or lazy, not biased. It also found that people existing in partisan bubbles get only a partial view of how others feel on political issues.

Some reasons for spreading misinformation include seeing how often it’s been shared by others, identifying a headline consistent with politically held beliefs and viewing a source as legitimate, whether that’s a site designed to look like traditional media or alternative media, according to a study published last year by the National Institutes of Health.

The common theme running through the research and testimony is the need for more responsibility among Americans.

Congressional members are hammering out how to better regulate or influence truth shared on social media. That isn’t going to solve the entire problem.

Americans must do more. For starters, people could read articles before sharing, look for sourced stories, check the date of publication, look for inconsistencies and recognize the differences among news, opinion and satire.

Misinformation is a problem. It affects everyone, and everyone must do better in questioning the veracity of what they share.

[Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 31.3% – Percent increase of Oklahomans who reported being American Indian alone or in combination with another race from 2020 Census compared with the 2010 Census [U.S. Census]
  • 4% – Black Americans possess 4 percent of the nation’s household wealth while representing 13 percent of the U.S. population [Brookings]
  • 26% – Black Oklahomans represent 26% of the state’s prison population, but only 7% of the state’s population [The Sentencing Project]
  • 63% – Percentage of Oklahoma children, under age 6, with all available parents working full-time [KIDS COUNT
  • 11% – Percent of Hispanic children (of any race) in Oklahoma without health insurance in 2019, behind only American Indian children at 18%. [KIDS COUNT]

What We’re Reading

  • Rethinking How We Celebrate American History—Indigenous Peoples’ Day [Smithsonian]
  • State Income Taxes and Racial Equity: Narrowing Racial Income and Wealth Gaps with State Personal Income Taxes [ITEP]
  • The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons [The Sentencing Project]
  • Six reasons why an expanded Child Tax Credit or child allowance should be part of the US safety net [Brookings]
  • Facing the facts: Latino and Hispanic communities continue to be marginalized in film [USC Annenberg Media

NOTE: National Hispanic Heritage Month was Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Each week, OK Policy shared policy notes and numbers to recognize this commemoration.


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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