Number of poor in Tulsa, Oklahoma rises
BY CURTIS KILLMAN World Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
9/29/10 at 5:18 AM
The percentage of people living in poverty increased in the state and Tulsa from 2008 to 2009, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday.
Nearly one in five Tulsans reported incomes in 2009 below the poverty level.
The estimated 19.5 percent of Tulsans with poverty-level incomes in 2009 reversed a two-year decline in the number of poor in the city, according to Census Bureau statistics.
Statewide, the number of people living in poverty increased from 15.9 percent in 2008 to 16.2 percent in 2009, census figures show.
Among families, an estimated 12.1 percent of Oklahomans reported incomes below the poverty level in 2009, compared to 11.8 percent the prior year.
Oklahoma and 30 other states saw increases in both the number and percentage of people in poverty between 2008 and 2009.
In Tulsa, the number of families living in poverty increased by 1,371 families from 2008 to 2009, Census Bureau figures indicate.
The latest poverty statistics mirror what local social service agencies experienced in 2009.
"It doesn't surprise me," said Mindy Tiner, executive director for Neighbors Along the Line, a nonprofit social service agency serving west Tulsa and Sand Springs.
The number of families seeking food pantry assistance at the agency increased 40 percent from 2008 to 2009, Tiner said.
Many families seeking assistance were newly poor, Tiner said.
"It was people we don't typically see," Tiner said.
The number of individuals seeking assistance whose monthly income was less than $500 increased 40 percent so far this year, Tiner said.
The agency routinely exhausts its utility bill assistance program funding by the middle of each month, Tiner said.
The increase in statewide poverty in 2009 marked the end to a brief period of economic growth in Oklahoma.
Prior to 2009, the percentage of poor in Oklahoma had declined each year since 2006, when 20.3 percent of the population was poor.
The increase of those in poverty between 2008 and 2009 coincided with an increased number of unemployed, said David Blatt with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a nonprofit state anti-poverty organization.
"Prior to last year we were doing well, so it's probably not a surprise that we saw a decline in the previous years and now in 2009 it was an extremely tough year," Blatt said.
"The big picture is that while the economy is struggling, lots of families are facing great challenges getting through and finding the resources to pay all their bills and keep their families together," Blatt said.
Among Tulsa families, annual median income declined for the second consecutive year.
Median income was $50,464 in 2009 compared to $51,586 and $51,806 in 2008 and 2007 respectively.
Families making less than $10,000 in 2009 represented 7.5 percent of the population, compared to 5.5 percent in 2008.
Meanwhile, the percentage of families making $150,000 or more increased from 2008 to 2009.
The percentage of Tulsa families making $150,000 to $199,999 increased from 3.6 percent in 2008 to 4.5 percent in 2009.
The percentage of Tulsa families making more than $200,000 in 2009 edged up to 5.6 percent from 5.4 percent in 2008.
The number of working poor also declined from 2008 to 2009 in Tulsa.
In Tulsa, 32.4 percent of people 16 years old and older whose income was below the poverty level were employed in 2009 compared to 39.4 percent in 2008.
Poverty is based on a number of factors, including annual income and the size of the family.
The average poverty threshold for a four-member family in 2009 was $21,954. The weighted average threshold for a one-person family was $10,956 in 2009.
This is the second time this month that the Census Bureau has released poverty statistics for the nation and state.
Figures released earlier this month indicate the percentage of Oklahomans living in poverty declined from 2008 to 2009.
Blatt questioned the earlier batch of figures, noting that the latter figures from the American Community Survey were based on a larger sample size and thus more reliable.
The figures released this week come from the 2009 American Community Survey, an ongoing survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau that samples nearly 3 million housing units each year. Data released Tuesday included geographic areas with populations greater than 65,000.
The American Community Survey is the successor to the former census "long form."
Living in poverty in Oklahoma
|% in poverty in 2009 ||change from 2008|
Tulsans|| 19.5% ||+1.2%|
Broken Arrow ||5.3% || -1%|
Oklahoma City||18.1% ||+2.3%|
Original Print Headline: Number of poor in Tulsa increases
Curtis Killman 581-8471
Lois Bronson waits to get food from Neighbors Along the Line food pantry Tuesday. Bronson says she has been below the poverty line since 2004. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Volunteer Lisa Garza fills groceries at Neighbors Along the Line food pantry Tuesday. The number of people in Tulsa and the state living below the poverty line increased in 2009 over the previous year, the Census Bureau reports. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World