WASHINGTON — More Oklahomans relied on federal assistance last year than in 2010, according to new Census Bureau figures that show increases in both food stamp and welfare participation.
Oklahoma was one of only seven states that saw an increase from 2010 to 2011 among those collecting federal welfare benefits, known formally as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and General Assistance. And it was one of 17 states with a higher participation rate — 3.6 percent of households — than the national average of 2.9 percent in 2011.
Nearly 206,000 Oklahomans received food stamps at some point in 2011, up from about 196,000 in 2010.
According to the Census Bureau figures, 14.3 percent of Oklahoma households received food stamps last year, more than the national average of 13 percent. The national average was up from 12 percent in 2010.
The increases came despite the fact that Oklahoma's unemployment rate dropped from 7.2 percent in January 2010 to 6.3 percent in December 2011.
State's figures differ
Alex Weintz, spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, said Wednesday that state Department of Human Services figures — calculated on a fiscal year basis rather than a calendar year basis like the Census figures — show a decrease in people collecting Temporary Assistance to Needy Families from 2011 to 2012.
And he said the growth in food stamp recipients had slowed dramatically compared to increases in previous years. Only 11,000 Oklahomans were added as food stamp beneficiaries from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2012, Weintz said, down from 101,000 in the previous year, according to DHS figures.
“Oklahoma, like the rest of the nation, has suffered from the national recession,” Weintz said. “We have been fortunate, however, that our natural assets, strong private sector and sound public policy choices have left the state in a better position than most others.
“Oklahoma, for instance, has the second highest rate of job creation in the country over the last 12 months. At 5.7 percent, our unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country. Furthermore, Oklahoma is experiencing broad based economic growth, with median household income increasing 9 percent from 2010 to 2011, the fastest growth rate in the U.S.”
And he said the governor was promoting policies to create jobs and lift up “Oklahoma families who have fallen on hard times, thus reducing the need for families to seek public assistance.”
In a separate study, the Census Bureau reported that the amount of “shared households” fell slightly in Oklahoma from 2010 to 2011.
The bureau defines “shared households” as those with a resident 18 or older who is not the householder or spouse; students aged 18 to 24 aren't defined as additional adults.
In 2011, 15.9 percent of Oklahoma households had “additional adults,” down from 16.3 percent in 2010. The rate in 2007 was 14.6 percent.
Nationally, the number and percentage of additional adults in households rose in 40 states from 2007 to 2011, with the largest increases in the South and West, the Census Bureau reported.
“There is some evidence that these shifts in living arrangements had an economic dimension,” the report says. “Many of the adults sharing a household with relatives would have been in poverty if they had been living on their own.”
In 2011, nearly one in five households in the United States met the Census Bureau definition of a shared household.
In Oklahoma last year, nearly 80 percent of the additional adults in a shared household were relatives — the child, sibling, parent or other relative of the householder.