Testing some truisms about poverty in Oklahoma*

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Marvin L. Cooke


*Originally printed in Free Inquiry in Creative Sociology 2010 38(2).

Four truisms about poverty are often heard in Oklahoma: Dependency causes poverty, education solves poverty, discrimination is no longer a problem, and a rising economic tide floats all boats. This paper uses publicly available sources -such as the U.S. Census- to test these truisms in Oklahoma. From 1999 and 2006 it was found that poverty increased in the face of decreased public assistance, that poverty increased in the face of increased education levels, that higher rates of poverty level wages were paid to minorities and women than to white men, that poverty level wages were a part of the labor market and that poverty rises and falls as the proportion of jobs that pay poverty level wages rises and falls, and that real wages fell as per capita gross domestic product rose. After a close examination of various industrial sectors and of recent cross national studies, it was concluded that a rising floor under the labor market is more effective at reducing poverty than a rising general tide of economic growth.

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