Poverty Rate Surges in Oklahoma

U.S. Census Bureau data reveals a sharp increase in the number of Oklahomans living in poverty, with the state’s poverty rate hitting 15.4 percent for the period 2005-06, an increase of 2.2 percentage points from the previous year, and its highest level in over a decade.
For the second straight year, Oklahoma experienced a steep rise in the number and percentage of its population living in poverty. The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey found the percentage of Oklahomans living in poverty was up from 13.2 percent in 2004-05 and 11.8 percent in 2003-04. This translates to 537,000 Oklahomans in poverty for the period 2005-06 – which in 2006 was $20,000 for a family of four – up from 406,500 in 2003-04. Oklahoma’s climbing poverty rate stands in contrast to the national trend, where the poverty rate has declined modestly the past two years.
“These numbers should sound the alarm that our economy, while continuing to show signs of overall strength, is leaving far too many Oklahomans behind,” said David Blatt, Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project, a Tulsa-based anti-poverty agency.
County-level data from a second national survey showed that Oklahoma County is suffering the worst concentration of poverty of the state’s metropolitan counties, with 22.1 percent of the county’s residents falling below the poverty line in 2006.
Median household income in Oklahoma in 2006 was $38,276, which is $10,175, or 21 percent below the national median household income.
The Census Bureau also released data on health insurance coverage revealing that an average of 700,000 Oklahomans, or 18.7 percent, were without health insurance for the period from 2004-06. This was down slightly from the previous average of 19 percent uninsured from 2003-05 reported last year, but still leaves Oklahoma with the sixth highest rate of uninsured among the states. Nationally, the uninsured rate jumped from 15.3 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2006, with 47 million Americans lacking health insurance. ?

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