Oklahoma possesses a vibrant history, varied culture, and stunning scenery. Nevertheless, not every location in the Sooner State experiences the same degree of prosperity and welfare.
Based on the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, one city in Oklahoma emerges as the least affluent among those with a population of at least 25,000. That city is Stillwater.
The Poorest City in Oklahoma
Based on the five-year data from the 2020 American Community Survey, Oklahoma had a median household income of $53,840 and a poverty rate of 15.4%. Nevertheless, these statewide figures hide the significant disparities and inequities among different areas within the state.
Out of the 16 places in Oklahoma with available data and populations of at least 25,000, Stillwater stands out as the most economically challenged. A typical household in Stillwater earns around $34,906 annually, which is approximately 35% lower than the statewide median. The poverty rate in Stillwater is 25.9%, which is about 10 percentage points higher than the statewide average.
Stillwater serves as the county seat of Payne County and is home to Oklahoma State University. It has a population of roughly 50,000 people, with about 40% being college students.
The significant presence of a student population may partly account for the lower income levels and higher poverty rates in Stillwater, as students typically have lower incomes and higher living expenses compared to non-students.
However, even after excluding the student population, Stillwater’s poverty rate remains higher than the state average, as reported by the Oklahoma Policy Institute.
The Causes and Consequences of Poverty
Poverty isn’t a natural or inevitable state, but rather a result of various social, economic, and political factors that lead to and perpetuate inequality and injustice. Some potential causes of poverty in Stillwater and other parts of Oklahoma include:
Insufficient wages and limited job opportunities: Many workers in Oklahoma earn below the living wage, which is the minimum income required to cover basic household needs.
According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, the living wage for a single adult in Payne County is $12.68 per hour, while the minimum wage in Oklahoma is $7.25 per hour.
Limited access to quality education and healthcare: Education and healthcare are crucial for human development, well-being, economic progress, and upward social mobility. However, numerous individuals in Oklahoma encounter obstacles and difficulties in obtaining quality and affordable education and healthcare services.
For instance, Oklahoma ranks among the lowest states in the nation regarding per-pupil spending, teacher salaries, and student achievement. Additionally, Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of uninsured individuals, the lowest scores for healthcare accessibility, and the poorest health outcomes in the country.
The Solutions and Strategies to Reduce Poverty
Poverty is not an unavoidable or insurmountable issue, but rather one that can be solved and prevented. There are various ways and plans that can be put into action at different levels and in various sectors to diminish and eradicate poverty in Stillwater and other places in Oklahoma. Some of the potential solutions and strategies include:
Raising the minimum wage and bolstering workers’ labor rights and protections: Elevating the minimum wage to a level that ensures a livable income can help raise millions of workers and their families out of poverty. This can also stimulate the local economy and increase consumer demand.
Enhancing workers’ labor rights and protections, such as the right to unionize, negotiate collectively, and receive fair and equal treatment, can also enhance their working conditions and overall well-being. It can also reduce the likelihood of exploitation and mistreatment.
Broadening access to and affordability of high-quality education and healthcare: Investing in education and healthcare can yield positive and enduring effects on individuals’ human capital, productivity, and potential, as well as on the overall social and economic progress of a society.
Making quality education and healthcare more accessible and affordable can be accomplished by increasing public funding and support for these sectors. Additionally, implementing policies and programs that lower barriers and costs for users, like universal pre-K, tuition-free college, Medicaid expansion, and health insurance subsidies, can be effective measures.
Stillwater, based on the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, stands as the least affluent city in Oklahoma. The city exhibits a low median household income and a high poverty rate, in contrast to both state and national averages.
Poverty is a intricate and multifaceted issue stemming from a range of social, economic, and political factors, with enduring and severe repercussions for individuals, families, communities, and society at large.
Nonetheless, poverty is a challenge with potential solutions, and there exist various approaches and strategies that can be put into action to mitigate and eventually eradicate it. Through collaborative efforts, we can forge a more prosperous and just future for both Stillwater and Oklahoma.