Oklahoma’s child poverty rate is on the rise, according to a new study, which doesn’t even take into account the economy’s continued stagnation.
According to the Anne E. Casey Foundation, Oklahoma’s child poverty rate rose from 19 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2009. It’s probable that number is even higher today given an economy that has remained in a recession for many Oklahomans.
The study, part of the foundation’s 2011 Kids Count Data Book, defined poverty as “income below $21,756 for a family of two adults and two children in 2009.”
The national child poverty rate, according to the foundation, is now a staggering 20 percent. That means one in five children now live in poverty in this country. The poverty rate has risen in 38 states.
Although this isn’t one of those studies in which Oklahoma leads the nation in a social problem, it does point to the state’s continued struggle with poverty and portends future problems. Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to do less well in school and commit crimes. Some, in turn, eventually have children, who also grow up in poverty, and the cycle continues.
Poverty rates and how they are measured can fluctuate, but what’s important to note is the suffering poverty causes in people, from basic hunger to lack of appropriate medical care to social isolation. In Oklahoma, that suffering is all around us, sometimes starkly visible on the streets.
Our state has a systemic pattern of poverty, and that doesn’t bode well for the state’s future development or national image. What if Oklahoma made a real dent in its child poverty rate? What if the state could eliminate its chronic problem of food hunger?
The clichéd but accurate answer to social problems in Oklahoma is always “education.” Studies show educated people make more money and lead healthier lives, but can a hungry child learn anything but a basic sense of survival.