The Duncan Banner

November 17, 2013

Numerical snapshot counts, too

Ed Darling
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Today’s message, brought to you from the Oklahoma Policy Institute, focuses more on numbers than words and outlines how we compare with other counties in Oklahoma. The snapshot of how we rank among other counties is an interesting one.

Formed in 2008 as a non-profit organization based in Tulsa, the institute is an independent think tank that provides timely and credible information, analysis and ideas.  Its annual statistical research provides comparative data on health, education and the economy for all 77 Oklahoma counties.

“The rankings are helpful for comparisons,” analyst Kate Richey, explained, “but our goal is not to judge who’s best or who’s worst. It’s more to make residents of different counties aware of their status and to tell them in what areas they excel or might need to make adjustments.

“No one is great in everything nor terrible in everything, but seeing how neighboring areas fare is a helpful exercise.”

See if you agree, but pay attention. A low score is preferable in some categories; a high score in others.

Stephens County, for starters, is 21st among 77 counties in population. Our 44,779 people are far less than Oklahoma County’s 741,781, but much greater than Cimarron County’s tiny 2,385 panhandle population.

Our median personal income is solid at $43,769. That places us 18th among Oklahoma counties; less than Oklahoma County’s $60,225 but more than 77th-ranked Choctaw and its $28,598 mark.

Among the state’s top employment sectors, Stephens County is high (19 percent) in manufacturing and oil and gas (15 percent), average in healthcare and social services (12 percent), even statewide in retail (11 percent) and low in education (seven percent).

The area’s unemployment rate is lower than the state average. Its percentage of state and local government workers is low (75th at 7.6 percent), especially compared to Love County where the number hits nearly 43 percent. A working age workforce of 45 percent is a good number. Comanche County is the state’s lowest in that category at 5.6 percent.

Only five percent of our total employment is involved in farming. That number is 28 percent in Rogers Mills County, less than one percent in Oklahoma County.

A composite ranking of various health categories suggests Stephens County is the 31st healthiest county. Kingfisher has the best ranking. Pushmataha the lowest.

Twenty percent of adults here smoke. That ranks 55th lowest in the state and is actually a good number. In Pushmataha County, 40 percent of adults smoke, making its percentage the highest. Only 14 percent of the adults smoke in Major County.

We’re 55th in the percentage of obese adults at 31 percent. Again, that’s a better number than most. Grady County reports a 38 per cent rate for adult obesity and is the worst. Washita County has 28 percent. That’s too many, but is the state’s best figure.

There are 56 births per 1,000 teenage girls in Stephens County. The total ranks us 49th. Choctaw reports 97 per 1,000 and is the worst. Grant, with just 22, is the lowest.

Sixteen percent of Stephens Count residents are enrolled in Medicare. The high number is 69 percent in Major County and the low is four percent in McClain County. Our 20 percent of uninsured residents compares to a high of 33 percent in Cimarron County and a low of 16 percent in Canadian County.

We look good with 41 percent high school graduates compared to the state average of 32 percent, but not so good in college degrees with 21 percent compared to 30 percent statewide.

Fifty-four percent of our students (53rd) are eligible for free lunches, but that’s actually a low number. In Harrison County, 83 percent are eligible. The lowest is in Canadian where 40 percent are eligible. And our child poverty rate of 19 percent is 46th; better than Harmon County’s 37 percent, worse than Canadian County’s 10 percent.

Got all that? It’s a lot of numbers to be sure, but you don’t have to remember them all. Just visit the Institute’s web-site at okpolicy.org and see for yourself.

Chances are, you’ll find a cause worthy of support or a number worth trying to change.

edarling@duncanbanner.com

(580) 255-5354, Ext. 130