OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A Thursday morning press conference delved into the year-long study looking at costs for childcare, women’s pay and insurance for women in the state of Oklahoma.

There were other focuses, such as women participation in politics, labor force participation and state subsidy programs.

Dr. Laura Ahlstrom, professor of economics at Oklahoma State University, helped lead the research.

She said that there are policies that can improve costs for childcare and lower pay for women.

“I think that the state could examine its reimbursement rate for the child care subsidy,” said Ahlstrom. “In light of the increase in cost for everything and inflation, I think the state could examine raising the minimum wage.”

The research showed that Oklahoma’s child care subsidy covers 60 percent of the costs, where as the federal recommendation is 75 percent.

And right now, the state’s minimum wage is on par with the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Women make up six out of 10 minimum wage workers in Oklahoma, according to the study.

Pay equity was highlighted too.

“Women in Oklahoma earned an average of 74.5 cents for every dollar earned by a man in the state,” said Ahlstrom.

The national average for women is 80.8 cents.

When it comes to women of color in Oklahoma, the number is much worse.

For Hispanic women, they make 50 cents for every dollar made by a white male. Black women make 58 cents.

While pay for women is not promising, costs for childcare is increasing.

In 2020, the cost of having an infant was around $9,000 annually and $745 per month.

Dr. Ahlstrom said that number has certainly climbed due to inflation.

Allison Parker, Director of Development and Communication at Infant Crisis Services, said basic essentials are skyrocketing.

“This year we saw a 16 percent budget increase in what we’re planning for, in terms of serving kiddos,” said Parker.

The Oklahoma City nonprofit buys diapers and baby formula, and gets other items like clothes donated from the community.

Parker said she has seen women and families coming in because they have had to make the toughest decisions.

“We see it all the time,” said Parker. “Clients come in and they say, “I had to pick between paying my medical bill or buying diapers for my child, how do I make that choice?”

Dr. Ahlstrom and United We, the nonprofit that partnered with OSU’s business school, released a two year timeline to turn around some of the slumping statistics.

They advocate for an Oklahoma Women’s Economic Task Force, five statewide town halls to hear from women in both rural and metro areas, and more research into childcare licensing.

State Sen. Jessica Garvin has an interim study in the works which looks to make Oklahoma a top 10 state for women. She is gathering data regarding economic and health status for women, and social support systems for mothers. Garvin sent KFOR her takeaways from the research:

“It is extremely encouraging to see that so many organizations care about the status of women here and I look forward to partnering with groups like United WE and Oklahoma State University to determine how to turn their data into solid policy that moves the needle for women. I have two interim studies, one will focus on policy to turn Oklahoma into a ‘Top Ten State for Women’ and will address many of the same areas brought out in this study; the other is specifically looking at burdensome regulations we have in place that prohibit entrepreneurs from expanding or establishing affordable and reliable daycare options; I believe these go hand in hand. With so many daycare deserts in Oklahoma, and having a majority of primary caregivers in their homes being women, we have to focus on policy to create more quality options so that women who choose to work outside of the home have an equal opportunity to thrive in the workforce, while balancing being a mom, wife, or any other role they want to play.”

Sen. Jessica Garvin

The full study can be read below.