View Full Version : Why is Oklahoma such a poor state??

08-31-2007, 11:03 AM
The wealthiest (and poorest) places in the United States - Aug. 28, 2007 (

The richest (and poorest) places in the U.S.
Maryland knocked New Jersey out of the top spot this year, while Mississippi and West Virginia were the poorest states in the Union.
By Les Christie, staff writer
August 29 2007: 12:47 PM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- Maryland is now the wealthiest state in the union, as measured by median household income, according to the latest stats from the Census Bureau.

The typical Maryland household earned $65,144 in 2006, propelling it past New Jersey, which came in second with earnings of $64,470, but had led the nation in 2005. Connecticut finished in third place both years, recording a median income of $63,422 in 2006.

Top 10 wealthiest states
Here's where the median household income is highest
State Income
Maryland $65,144
New Jersey $64,470
Connecticut $63,422
Hawaii $61,160
Massachusetts $59,963
New Hampshire $59,683
Alaska $59,393
California $56,645
Virginia $56,277
Minnesota $54,023

Source:U.S. Census Bureau
The 10 poorest states
The states with the lowest median household income
State Income
Montana $40,627
Tennessee $40,315
Kentucky $39,372
Louisiana $39,337
Alabama $38,783
Oklahoma $38,770
Arkansas $36,599
West Virginia $35,059
Mississippi $34,473

Source:U.S. Census Bureau

Maryland's income was nearly double that of Mississippi, which, with a median of $34,473, was the nation's poorest state. West Virginia, where the median household earned $35,059, was second poorest and Arkansas, at $36,599, was third.

The median income for the United States as a whole came to $48,451.

Household incomes rose, but . . .

Income growth was highest in the District of Columbia, where it rose 6.4 percent for the year. Median income in both Nevada and New Mexico jumped 4.5 percent. Delaware, down 2.9 percent, took the biggest dip, followed by Rhode Island (down 2.0 percent) and Maine (down 1.6 percent).

Among places with 250,000 or more residents, the affluent Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas, boasts the highest median income: $77,038. San Jose came in second at $73,804 and San Francisco was third with $65,497.

Paychecks in 2008: No big bump

The list of the 10 poorest cities was filled with mostly old, northeastern and mid-western industrial locales. Cleveland had the lowest median income of any city in the nation with more than 250,000 residents; households there earned just $26,535. Miami was the next poorest at $27,088, followed by Buffalo ($27,850), Detroit ($28,364), St. Louis ($30,936) and Cincinnati ($31,103).

Other poor sun-belt cities included Memphis ($32, 593) and El Paso (33,103). With median income of $33,229, Philadelphia was the only city among the nation's 10 biggest that was also among the 10 poorest cities.

The middle class may be better off than it thinks.

Among towns of between 65,000 and 250,000 in population, Yorba Linda, California, where six-figure incomes are the rule, had the highest median income at $121,075. The Orange County town is considerably wealthier than the second place city, Pleasanton, California, in the Bay area, which had a median income of $105,956.

The lowest income town of any with more than 65,000 population was Youngstown, Ohio at $21,850, which finished last by a large margin. Muncie, Indiana was its closest rival for this dubious distinction, with residents there earning $25,859, a difference of 18 percent.

Good thing there is Arkansas, West Virginia, and Mississippi. It is always good to be in the company of such great states as these. Now let's hear everyone reference our "low cost of living".

08-31-2007, 11:19 AM
The main reason that Oklahoma is a poor state is a very simple one. It has to do with the lack of high-paying jobs.

In Oklahoma City, if you are not a doctor, lawyer, business owner, or an executive in the oil industry, it is quite hard (not impossible, but hard) to have a high income (over, say $80,000 or $100,000)

I live in St. Louis. Here are the occupations of some of my neighbors:
stock analyst for a large international brokerage
head of marketing for a Big 4 accounting firm
pharmaceutical researcher
fashion designer
owner of PR firm, specializing in non-profits

I am definitely the laggard on my block. But my point is, I know a lot of people here that have high-paying jobs that simply don't exist in Oklahoma. This is because OKC does not have enough of a white-collar business base. With every Fortune 1000 company comes a host of financial and creative firms that rise to support it. Until OKC can do a better job of diversifying its economy, I'm afraid it's always going to be poorer than average.

08-31-2007, 11:25 AM
Now let's hear everyone reference our "low cost of living".

Does a low cost of living have no effect?

08-31-2007, 11:59 AM
It has some effect, but not enough to balance the lower wages.

08-31-2007, 12:05 PM
Cost of living is somewhat of a red herring. Yes, your house is less expensive in Oklahoma. Certain taxes are lower.

But with the possible exception of the coasts and maybe Chicago, a car in OKC costs the same as the rest of the country. Gasoline costs are very similar. Ditto utility bills. A trip to the grocery store, or a nice restaurant, or a concert, is very comparable.

Macy's, The Gap, all those national chains do not price their clothing lower in Oklahoma. At least not that I have ever been able to tell.

The average person in OKC does have less disposable income than many other places. And that affects an awful lot.

08-31-2007, 12:25 PM
Why is it that OK ranks in the bottom 5 in household income when we rank 37th in per capita income?

08-31-2007, 12:32 PM
Smaller families?

-- probably more dead babies due to lack of free insurance.

08-31-2007, 12:45 PM
Why is it that OK ranks in the bottom 5 in household income when we rank 37th in per capita income?

I don't know. Fewer workers per household? Are there fewer working women in OK than elsewhere?

08-31-2007, 12:48 PM
I'm not trying to deny that OK has a problem with poverty, especially in the rural areas, but these figures aren't jiving with me. According to Wikipedia Louisiana had a median household income of 35,523. Since then it got blasted by 2 hurricanes and somehow it outperformed the economy of OK, which just last year ranked in the top 5 in per capita income growth? You can't say that all the $$ the feds sent down there helped, because MS's income barley budged from 2005. Either something is very fishy here or maybe I'm missing something. Can someone enlighten me?

08-31-2007, 12:52 PM
Why is it that OK ranks in the bottom 5 in household income when we rank 37th in per capita income?

I heard many years ago that in Oklahoma, it was one of the worst states for women's pay by average. In that case its possible more women are staying at home and other assumptions . Remember that our per capita is practically our gross state product/ population, and that medien income is the avg. of the household.

08-31-2007, 01:17 PM
Our high divorce rate has something to do with the difference, you have a couple that each earn $35,000 dollars a year with two kids. That Household's income is $70,000. But then they divorce the aveage is now $35,000.

It's that and the disparity here beween people who do well and people who do not. We have a lot oil wealth here that spikes the high end of the wage scale that moves the average but does not change the median at all.

08-31-2007, 01:51 PM
Divorce rates are incredibly misleading figures.

Anyone who marries out of state (read: Vegas/Arkansas, both which have far fewer restrictions on marriage) and then returns here for a divorce is double counted.

08-31-2007, 02:15 PM
Divorce rates are incredibly misleading figures.

Anyone who marries out of state (read: Vegas/Arkansas, both which have far fewer restrictions on marriage) and then returns here for a divorce is double counted.

What do you mean by fewer restrictions? Are you saying that if they didn't go out of state to get married they wouldn't be able to do it here?

08-31-2007, 03:18 PM
And the same is not available to people in other states, only Oklahomans get married out of state?

08-31-2007, 03:51 PM
What do you mean by fewer restrictions? Are you saying that if they didn't go out of state to get married they wouldn't be able to do it here?

No, I'm saying it's a lot easier/quicker to procure a license. Many people go to Vegas or Arkansas to elope. Still others do it in other vacation spots. If a marriage license is granted out of state, it's not usually going to be part of these figures since these figures are based simply on the number of marriages in the state in a given year versus the number of divorces.

The same option is available to others in other states, however, take Las Vegas, for example. Using the same method, it wouldn't be hard to make a case that Las Vegas marriages are the most likely to last (probably anywhere in the world).

08-31-2007, 07:24 PM
San Jose? : I was born and raised there - Silicon Valley.. high tech IT jobs galore. Dot.commers abound..
Highly educated work force.. people graduate and stay in CA..

People graduate here and a lot of them leave. No high paying jobs .. vicious cycle.

09-01-2007, 02:51 AM
I find this very suspect. OK made the low list, but there was NO Oklahoma city or town on the individual city/town list for being low. Cleveland was the lowest big city, and surely Memphis was also there and Miami. No mention of OKC.

Of middle cities/towns, no mention of Tulsa or Lawton yet Ohio seems to have lots of towns on the low end.

Hmmmm, Im just not buying this. How can the state be so relatively low yet no city or town was identified as being low? Isn't OKC's median around 40K? that KILLS Memphis (by almost 15K) yet our state number is 4K away and puts us at fourth worse.

I do hope OKC continues to get more high paying jobs. The COC needs to shoot for them almost exclusively, along with mfg and professional.

Oh, and STL, I disagree with you about OKC not having a large white-collar base; that is totally inaccurate. In fact, OKC has one of the largest white-collar bases, especially when you consider per-capita.

It is because most of the white collar jobs are government and the state is conservative (whose politicians do NOTHING for this state and helps states like Utah) is the REASON why OK is not higher.

OKC is well known for being a primary white-collar Federal and State government city, with a relatively small professional sector (that's expanding in health services/research) and an even smaller blue-collar base. Tulsa has a larger blue-collar base than OKC, for example; and their city is considered richer or at least at par with OKC (now).

Nope, it's not the type of jobs OKC has that has the city in the middle-class doldrums, it is the fact that the jobs themselves don't pay well and that is mainly due to the state being conservative (ie., fiscal conservative which stems from fundamental conservatism).

this IS the problem, we need to be fiscal moderate!!!! or even PRO-BUSINESS (like the state to the south), THEN OKC and OK will move up the charts. There is NO WAY IN H*** that staes like North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Alabama, or Tennessee or even Kentucky should be richer than Oklahoma - especially when you have Oklahoma City (the largest city of any of those states) and Tulsa (an economic powerhouse).

we should be middle of the pack, being energy rich and white collar. But the far right translating into fiscal conservative (meaning do/spend nothing for OKLAHOMA for feeling GUILTY/RIGHTEOUS) is what is killing us!@!!!!!

Oklahoma City's society is changing for the better (becoming more progressive, pro-business), so hopefully this list will change in the next 5 years. Come on Chamber, Mayor, and Officials!!!

09-01-2007, 10:28 PM
Why is it that OK ranks in the bottom 5 in household income when we rank 37th in per capita income?

Median household income figures only look at the income from place of work, whereas per capita income looks at income by place of work, proprietary income (authors, musicians), farm income, rental income, dividends income paid by investment and interest.

09-01-2007, 11:14 PM
This is a statewide problem and has little to do with policies coming out of City Hall in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The problem begins and ends at 23rd and Lincoln Blvd.

It's a vicious cycle. Poor education = non-educated work force = no interest in Oklahoma by business = less money for education = a bigger and poorer educated work force = less interest from business........on and on it goes.

This is especially true in the rural areas of Oklahoma. We have more school districts per capita than any other state. We don't need all that administrative overhead, yet, the Superintendents of these districts often are political big shots in their districts. So, it's never changed. We need consolidation of school districts, more money for quality teachers, newer and better resources, etc. We have too many graduates of High School in Oklahoma who still can't speak decent English. It's a disgrace. It has to change and someday, when the good old boys are swept aside (and they're in both political parties), it will.

09-02-2007, 08:45 AM
Wouldn't the growth in the Metro offset the lows in the rural of OK? There are what roughly 3 million people in the entire state? Approx. 2 million of those are in the Tulsa and OKC metros right? It would seem to me the growth in those areas would offset a good margin of the disparity. I realize there are some dirt poor areas of this state and have seen some firsthand in my travels but just the sparsity of the population would factor in...maybe not.

I too am very suspect of this report considering I have been through both rural areas of Kentucky and Tennessee and Oklahoma. Appearance wise it sure seems as though the areas in KY and TN are much worse off than OK.

09-02-2007, 02:00 PM
Not to mention OK is a Right to Work State and there aren't many strong Unions here (which can mean Job Protection & guarantee of higher wages).

Here anyone can fire you for anything, pay you anything, and offer no health benefits and employees have little recourse.

I was in the Union in CA for 14 years.. great pay, great health/dental benefits, great retirement, great job security ..... I loved it.

09-02-2007, 05:39 PM
Right to work does not weaken a union but rather holds the union accountable. Having right to work does not prevent anyone from joining a union. If you allow the union to force people to join or pay dues then a union has no incentive to work on your behalf. They can sit back and collect dues that are extorted from non willing members. With right to work, you do not have to join if the union does not perform.

I think unions are necessary in some cases but I do not think ANY organization should have the right to force membership to their organization when the members may not agree with what the union stands for. That is just fundamentally wrong.

09-02-2007, 06:43 PM
They can sit back and collect dues that are extorted from non willing members

16 years ago I left a job when my son was born (in one of the richest areas in the country - Silicon Valley) that paid $18.00 per hour plus time and half and double time on Sundays, triple time on Holidays. I gladly paid my dues because the wages and benefits ( free health, dental, 401 plan, Retirement, Job security etc etc), were outstanding.

I now talk to people here in OK in the same exact line of work 16 years later! who make minimum wage with no benefits to speak of...

I'd gladly pay the union dues.

I was never unwilling or felt extorted.

My husband was also in the Union for 17 years .. he made nearly 4 times per hour what people here in OK get for doing the same exact work ... between the two of us, we will be able to retire nicely because of the Pension and Retirements that our Unions fought for.

I felt fortunate to work for a Union company for 13 years .. People clamored to get a job at a union company. I knew no one who felt 'extorted' in any way.

Of course, I'm talking about a strong union as I mentioned earlier. I'm sure some unions aren't strong and don't provide their members what they promise. But we were fortunate to belong to a few very strong Unions and reaped the benefits.

I can honestly say that having been a Union worker and realizing the benefits, I'm a Union advocate.

09-04-2007, 06:38 AM
Hot Rod, It is clear that I did not choose my words carefully enough in my post. Rather than writing "white collar business base" I should have said have said "corporate private sector employment." I agree that OKC has a high percentage of jobs that happen to be in offices as opposed to factories. But I don't know a lot of college-educated people whose dream is to go to work in a state government agency; they surely won't move somewhere for that opportunity. I am not looking down my nose at government workers; they are noble and perform a vital service to society and we need them; but government by necessity is not going to pay as much as the private sector.

I should have been more clear as to what I meant; it is the lack of VARIETY of white collar corporate jobs that kills OKC. I agree that the city is making strides; it just has a long way to go. And I am NOT saying that these jobs don't exist in OKC, they just don't exist as a percentage of what is available as much as in other places.

And the list of cities is probably not as misleading as you think. A lot of older cities in the northeast and midwest are low on the list because a high proportion of their high-paying jobs are outside the city limits but still in their metros. This is because their actual city limits are very small and they have a lot of suburban sprawl. I didn't take a very hard look at it but I am certain the city of St. Louis has a lower per capita income than the city of OKC. But that is because so many professionals here live outside the city limits.

And while I agree that OKC is too socially conservative, I don't think it's that much more conservative than Texas or some other places that have lots more high paying jobs. Private companies will pay what the market will bear, not a penny more but not a penny less. I don't think it has that much to do with political philosophy.

09-04-2007, 07:55 AM
I can honestly say that having been a Union worker and realizing the benefits, I'm a Union advocate.

I've worked in two local large manufacturing centers since Iíve been out of college(eng). Unions did a lot of good in there own time but now they kill businesses. American workers who demand to be given 25 dollars a hour plus over time donít make it very far anymore. We have a lot of workers at my plant who have tried to unionize before and i think they are finally getting the idea they cant compete with someone in mexico or china who will do your job 10 hours a day for less than you make in a hour.

After GM, delta faucet, and dayton tire closed they started to get the idea.

09-04-2007, 08:26 AM
Yes, there are two sides.. now we are the Employer instead of the Employee and I hate to say that if we had to pay the Union rate in CA we wouldn't be as successful as we have been here in OK. We probably wouldn't even have been able to start a business ever. One of the great benefits of starting a business here in this state is that employees don't demand higher wages... unfortunately, it keeps our state on the low end of high wage earners and we're constantly fighting poverty throughout the state.

Personally, for me, Unions worked out well. But I can see the other side too.

09-04-2007, 10:55 AM
We're in a knowledge based economy now. Not a labor based economy. If you don't have any knowledge/skills which society values, you are of course going to be compensated less. You should be compensated for exactly as much as you are worth.

Unions can still do some good in helping companies to become more efficient at negotiating wages, contracts, etc. with employees. When unions and companies have a "We're in this together" attitude rather than a "I've got to get mine!" attitude, the relationship can work, everyone can win. Unfortunately, the market is set up so that it demands short term returns rather than long term growth. Such demands are not really conducive to a "We're in this together" sort of policy.

I've maintained now for a good while that many of our socioeconomic problems lie in the manner in which companies are invested in and run for the sake of short-term gains for short-term investors (which often are the companies' executives).