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Census snapshot shows bleak picture for many Oklahomans amid recession

Census: Incomes fell and food stamps increased last year in Oklahoma, but federal health insurance programs covered more children.
BY PAUL MONIES Modified: September 29, 2010 at 7:01 am •  Published: September 29, 2010

Holland, a Democrat, faces Republican John Doak in November's general election.

More on food stamps

The percentage of Oklahomans in poverty increased to 16.2 percent last year, up from 15.7 percent in 2008, the bureau said.

David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said food stamp recipients in the state have increased each month for more than two years.

More than 417,000 Oklahomans were on food stamps in July 2008, according to the Department of Human Services. That figure rose to 598,000 people by July 2010.

In line with declines in other states, median household income fell to $41,664 in Oklahoma last year. That's compared with $42,624 in 2008. Only North Dakota posted an increase in median household income last year, the Census Bureau said.

"Obviously, with the effects of the recession and the significant increase in the number of unemployed Oklahomans, it's not a great surprise to see that median income has fallen," Blatt said.

Competing surveys

Tuesday's American Community Survey estimates differed from numbers released by the Census Bureau earlier this month. The earlier estimates came from the Current Population Survey, which has a smaller sample size and a different way of surveying respondents. That can put the survey results at odds with each other.

For example, earlier Current Population Survey estimates appeared to show Oklahoma bucking the worst of the national recession in terms of poverty and health insurance coverage.

Policy analysts such as Blatt were skeptical of the earlier Current Population Survey estimates, which are useful for national snapshots but less so for state-level numbers.

The American Community Survey replaces the so-called "long form" from the once-a-decade population count. It asks detailed questions about economic, housing, social and demographic characteristics.

"Collectively, (American Community Survey) and census data are critical components of the nation's information infrastructure, providing data essential to our economy and our communities," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a statement. "ACS data are required by numerous federal programs and for planning and decision-making at the state and federal level."

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