OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma child poverty rate continues to rise across the state. Recent data shows the issue is only getting worse.
The latest child poverty ranking shows the poverty level has increased from 20% in 2019 to 21% in 2021. Oklahoma continues to stay above the national average. During those years, nationwide the child poverty rate sat at 17%.
“It is getting worse… And those numbers are just outrageous as far as families living in abject poverty and not being able to provide for their families,” said Joe Dorman, CEO of Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
The CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy shared recent studies from the Kids Count Data Report and the U.S. Census Bureau which shows more than one-in-five Oklahoma children are living in poverty.
“We’ve got to do something right now to try and curb some of these poverty levels and try and provide help to families that desperately need it,” said Dorman.
Joe Dorman said two factors driving those numbers are poor education levels and high teen pregnancy rates.
He adds offering more career training opportunities and affordable childcare for Oklahomans would be a step in the right direction.
“They have a tough time finding jobs and going out into the workforce, much less finishing their degree if they’re still in high school,” said Dorman.
Dorman said lawmakers need to act.
Democratic House Representative Forrest Bennett agrees that change starts at the Capitol.
“In order to fix generational poverty, which is, I think, the biggest challenge in Oklahoma, we have to make sure that the parents are accessing the kind of education that they need or the kind of career training that they need, because we can set kids today on a better path so that their kids are not trapped by the same kind of poverty that they are today,” said Forrest Bennett, House Representative for the 92nd District (D).
Bennett says he is working with other lawmakers to look for ways to improve conditions for Oklahoma families in need.
“We’ve been bragging a lot in the last few years about how much money we’ve saved. Well, it’s time to spend some of that in the areas where we claim to care the most, which is for our kids… And it’s hard in a state where we have a balanced budget, and every dollar sends you into a political conversation about what our priorities as a state are,” said Bennett.
The poverty level data shows in 2023, a family of two, meaning a single parent and child would be earning $19,720 annually.
For a family of four, two parents and two children, it’s about $30,000 per year.