New OSU study paints grim picture of status of women in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A Thursday morning news conference discussed the year-long study of childcare costs, women’s wages and insurance for women in the state of ‘Oklahoma.

There were other axes, such as women’s participation in politics, participation in the labor market and state subsidy programs.

Dr. Laura Ahlstrom, professor of economics at Oklahoma State University, helped lead the research.

She said there are policies that can improve childcare costs and reduce women’s wages.

“I think the state could look at their child care subsidy repayment rate,” Ahlstrom said. “Given the rising cost of everything and inflation, I think the state might consider raising the minimum wage.”

Research has shown that Oklahoma’s child care subsidy covers 60% of costs, while the federal recommendation is 75%.

And right now, the state minimum wage is on par with the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Women make up six out of 10 minimum-wage workers in Oklahoma, according to the study.

Pay equity was also highlighted.

“Oklahoma women earned an average of 74.5 cents for every dollar earned by a man in the state,” Ahlstrom said.

The national average for women is 80.8 cents.

When it comes to women of color in Oklahoma, the numbers are much worse.

For Hispanic women, they earn 50 cents for every dollar earned by a white man. Black women earn 58 cents.

While women’s earnings are not promising, childcare costs are rising.

In 2020, the cost of having a baby was around $9,000 per year and $745 per month.

Dr. Ahlstrom said that number has certainly increased due to inflation.

Allison Parker, director of development and communications at Infant Crisis Services, said the basic essentials are skyrocketing.

“This year we’ve seen a 16% increase in budget from what we plan, in terms of serving children,” Parker said.

The Oklahoma City nonprofit buys diapers and formula, and receives other items like clothing donated by the community.

Parker said she saw women and families come because they had to make the toughest decisions.

“We see it all the time,” Parker said. “Customers come in and say, ‘I had to choose between paying my medical bill or buying diapers for my child, how do I make that choice?

Dr. Ahlstrom and United We, the nonprofit that has partnered with the OSU business school, released a two-year timeline to turn around some of the falling statistics.

They advocate for an Oklahoma Women’s Economic Task Force, five town halls across the state to hear from rural and metropolitan women, and more research into child care licensing.

State Senator Jessica Garvin has an interim study underway that aims to make Oklahoma one of the top 10 states for women. It collects data on the economic and health status of women and on social support systems for mothers. Garvin sent KFOR his findings on the search:

“It’s hugely encouraging to see that so many organizations care about the status of women here and I look forward to partnering with groups like United WE and Oklahoma State University to figure out how to turn their data into robust policy that moves the needle for women I have two interim studies, one will focus on the policy of making Oklahoma a “top ten state for women” and will touch on many of the same areas highlighted evidence in this study; the other specifically examines the burdensome regulations we have in place that prohibit entrepreneurs from expanding or establishing affordable and reliable child care options; I believe these go hand in hand. of child care deserts in Oklahoma and with the majority of primary home care providers being women, we need to focus on policy to create more quality options so that Women who choose to work outside the home have an equal opportunity to thrive in the workforce, while balancing being a mother, wife, or whatever other role they want to play.

Senator Jessica Garvin

The full study can be read below.

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