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Census: Oklahoma poverty rates slightly declined in 2018

Earlier coverage: 2020 Census

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Poverty rates in Oklahoma saw a very slight decrease during 2018, though the state is still above the national average, according to data estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Overall poverty in Oklahoma went from 15.8% in 2017 to 15.5% in 2018, the data shows, which is formally called "Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates." The national poverty rate was 13.1% in 2018.

But for those under the age of 18 in Oklahoma, the poverty rate slightly increased from 21.3% to 21.4%.

“The constant stress that comes with living in scarcity can overload the brain, making every decision more difficult and leading to reduced educational outcomes and chronic health problems,” according to a September post from the Oklahoma Policy Institute. “Understanding poverty in our state is a crucial part of tackling so many of Oklahoma’s challenges.”

School districts

The data could be divided into school districts, which showed a small decrease from 20.1% to 19.9%.

Overall, school districts in the east and southeast of the state had the highest concentration of poverty rates. But the highest poverty rates of individual school districts were in the west and south.

Fort Supply Public Schools in northwestern Woodward County had a 40.5% poverty rate.

Waurika Public Schools in southern Jefferson County sat at 39.3%.

Other schools:

• Oklahoma City Public Schools went from 30.8% in 2017 to 33.4% in 2018.

• Tulsa Public Schools went from 26.8% in 2017 to 26.1% in 2018.

• Norman Public Schools went from 13.4% in 2017 to 13.1% in 2018.

These school-district statistics are used to determine how much Title I funding schools will get from the federal government to deal with student poverty, according to the Census Bureau.

If poverty rates increase or decrease, the funding will reflect that, said Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association.

"Poverty can affect our students before they even walk in the door," she said. "But poverty is not an indicator of ability. It just means that you may need different supports. ... Poverty affects people in a multitude of ways, but it is not an indicator of who you can be and who you can grow into. But it is a factor."

Joe Dorman, CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, said for schools, families and the state to receive the appropriate amount of federal funding, it is crucial to have full participation in the 2020 census, which is used as baseline information for the next 10 years.

“It is vitally important for families to fill out census information to ensure the local area receives the appropriate funding over the 10 years in which the Census count applies,” he said.

County-level poverty

When broken down by county, the data again showed that Oklahoma has high overall concentrations of poverty in the south and southeast regions compared to the rest of the state.

Okfuskee County in eastern central Oklahoma had the highest rate of poverty at 26.1% of all people. Greer county in south western Oklahoma — a geographic outlier — was at 26%.

Counties with the lowest rates of poverty were just outside the major metro areas. Around Oklahoma City, Canadian County was at 7.3%, and McClain County at 9.1%. Outside of Tulsa was Rogers County at 9.8%.

Oklahoma County saw an increase in poverty levels, from 15.9% in 2017 to 16.9% in 2018.

Median income rates

Median income rates increased throughout the state.

In 2018, median income rates sat at:

• $51,914 for the state overall

• $52,346 in Oklahoma County

• $55,796 in Tulsa County

• $61,937 in the U.S. overall

Kayla Branch

Kayla Branch covers county government and poverty for The Oklahoman. Branch is a native Oklahoman and graduate of the University of Oklahoma. She joined The Oklahoman staff in April 2019. Read more ›

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