Oklahoma ranks near bottom in income, health insurance

Thursday, August 26th 2004, 2:33 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Census figures released Thursday show that Oklahoma continues to fare poorly in the key statistics of median income, poverty level and health insurance coverage.

The average median income in the state in 2002 and 2003 was $36,598, essentially unchanged from the 2001-2002 figure and well below last year's national figure of $43,318.

Oklahoma had a 13.5% poverty rate, compared to 14.6% in the previous two-year period and 18.8% of residents did not have health insurance overage, compared to 17.8% in 2001-2002.

The state's changes in the poverty rate and health insurance coverage were not considered statistically significant.

The national poverty rate in 2003 was 12.5% of the population, or about 35.8 million Americans living below the poverty line. That was up from 34.5 million, or 12.1 percent in 2002.

The Census Bureau's definition of poverty varies by the size of the household. For instance, the threshold for a family of four was $18,810, while for two people it was $12,015.

Nationally, the report showed growing poverty, declining income and increasing numbers of uninsured people over the past three years. Supporters of presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry are already citing the report as evidence of the failure of President George Bush's economic policies.

Nearly 45 million people lacked health insurance nationally last year, or 15.6% of the population. That was up from 43.5 million in 2002, or 15.2%.

The census bureau released two-year averages to ensure statistical accuracy. The report released Thursday, "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States," was based on small surveys in each state, rather than the nationwide headcount the bureau conducts every decade.