Study Finds Poor Avoid Welfare Lists

Article excerpt

Associated Press

STILLWATER -- A comprehensive study by Oklahoma State University found the state's most destitute residents tend to work and get by without welfare.

The three-year OSU study, called "Poverty in Oklahoma: Causes, Resource Providers, and Needs," just finished its first year. Three reports have emerged so far:

l Findings from a random telephone survey of 403 impoverished Oklahoma residents.

l Snippets of lifestyle from 12 impoverished households observed in-depth by researchers.

l Data culled from the U.S. Census since 1960.

"Oklahoma is, in the 1990s, once again one of the poorest states in the United States," the second report's executive summary said. "In 1996 the poverty rate is about 19 percent; approximately 600,000 Oklahomans fall below the poverty line."

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce used federal grant money to pay for the study's $140,000 first-year cost. The first year looked at who is poor and why.

Future phases of the study will focus on service providers and develop recommendations for public policy.

Sherwood Washington, director of the Community Affairs and Development division of the commerce department, said the agency wanted to know the status of Oklahoma poverty so that better policy decisions can be made about issues such as housing, education and business survival.

State Department of Human Services Chief of Staff Sharon Neuwald said the study's final form could come in handy for the Legislature and those who keep up with employment levels, wages and economic development.

The Associated Press obtained copies of all three reports, a total of 136 pages. The third report still is in draft form.

OSU sociology associate professor Lee Maril, who heads the study, said few social scientists have analyzed Oklahoma poverty comprehensively because the information is so scattered.

Maril said one of the most important early findings shows that poor people in the state often work -- 35 percent full-time, 19 percent part-time, according to the telephone survey. …