The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma falls further behind the nation on poverty and uninsured rate

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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 Director Gene Perry informed us that Oklahoma has fallen further behind the nation as a whole on poverty and the uninsured rate, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Executive Director David Blatt adds that the loss of federal funds to prevent teenage pregnancy means we’re likely to undo much of the progress we’ve made on that front as well.

Blatt explained that the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s recent rulings striking down the cigarette fee and upholding the removal of a sales tax exemption for motor vehicles strike a balance on the taxation rules put in place by State Question 640. Blatt also pointed out the importance of government and its programs, especially during disasters – because there are no libertarians in a flood zone. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update laments the lack of progress that has been made on criminal justice reform.

OK Policy in the News

Perry was interviewed by the Stillwater News Press and Public Radio Tulsa about Oklahoma’s lack of progress on poverty and the uninsured rate – at a time when the national average was going down, our numbers were flat and still higher than the national average.

Weekly What’s That


The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is the nation’s largest public food assistance program. Its primary purpose is to increase the food purchasing power of eligible low-income households in order to improve their nutrition and alleviate hunger. To be eligible for SNAP, a household must have gross monthly income (income before any of the program’s deductions are applied) at or below 130 percent of the poverty line and net income (income after deductions are applied) at or below the poverty line. Read more here.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“I think if there ever was time for statesmen, now is the time. I think the citizens of this state want us to fix the problem. I think they are tired of partisanship and political bickering and really want to see us do the necessary hard work. None of this is going to be easy.”

– Oklahoma Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger on the upcoming special session (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, The Oklahoman

For the first time, 100 percent of graduating high school seniors in Oklahoma took the ACT test during the 2016-2017 school year. This provided a more comprehensive view of academic preparedness, but the results emphasized again that Oklahoma has much room for improvement. Oklahoma was one of just 17 states where all graduates took the ACT. Several states rely more heavily on the SAT, and a mix of the two tests is common elsewhere. Yet even when Oklahoma is compared to that 17-state minority, the results are less than stellar. The average composite ACT score in Oklahoma was 19.4, landing in a three-way tie for 10th among the 17 states.

Numbers of the Day

  • 399 – Total number of professionally active psychiatrists in Oklahoma in 2017
  • 16,601 – Number of World War II veterans living in Oklahoma, 2011-2015 average.
  • 16.7% – Percentage of Oklahoma households with a zero or negative net worth, 2013
  • 5.2% – Average unemployment rate for veterans in Oklahoma, 2011-2015. The rate for nonveterans was 6.3%
  • 44.9% – Rental households in Oklahoma spending 30% or more of their monthly income on rent and utilities, 2015

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • What If Government Just Gave Everyone Cash, No Strings Attached? [Governing]
  • Rural America Gets Creative to Attract Much-Needed Doctors[Governing]
  • Trump Wants to Get Tough on Crime. Victims Don’t Agree: [New York Times]
  • Is Anybody Home at HUD? [ProPublica]
  • A bold new plan promises to fix middle-class wage stagnation [Vox]


Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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