Oklahoma ranks 44 out of the 50 states as one of the worst states to raise a family, according to WalletHub statistics. When I read this, I admit my Okie hairs raised up on the back of my neck, ready to take offense.
WalletHub suggests raising a healthy, stable family may sometimes require moving to a new state. Excuse me? While I admit to considering a move a time or two, I don’t want you to tell me I can’t raise a stable, healthy family here.
Comparing such data in median family salary, housing affordability and unemployment rates, Oklahoma was give a 37.02 total score. Rather than just report this news, I have decided to analyze it. (i.e. pick it apart)
Ranking 37 in family fun, Oklahoma was graded on number of families with young children and number of attractions, recreational centers, or playgrounds available. Native Oklahomans might suggest WalletHub consider adding such data as how many households have a pet or access to a farm or ranch.
Most rural Oklahoma children either live on a farm, have family with a farm that they visit, or have school field trips to farm related activities. The visit to a petting zoo, hay maze or pumpkin patch is more than just a visit to a zoo. They learn more than just about the animals they visit, the farmers share some of their knowledge with them as well.
I do feel not enough rural Oklahoma families take advantage of the wonderful opportunities 4-H provides. A lot of parents may be surprised to see all the different industries the children get a taste of and all the skills they learn in the 4-H program.
Oklahoma scores the absolute lowest in health and safety, with some of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation. The data also considers the share of uninsured children, pediatricians per capita, the number of children’s hospitals per number of children, and more. Water quality, number of climate disasters and crimes per capita are also considered.
I was surprised to see the share of children who live in supportive neighborhoods and parents who have day-to-day emotional support with their parenting listed as well, though with the rest of the list, it doesn’t seem like these very important aspects are considered as highly as I would prefer.
While I think the practical takeover of social media to be a detriment to our community, I do still see rural Oklahoma as some of the most supportive in the nation. Granted I’m prejudiced. Even in some of the hardest families, I’ve seen people band together and take up for one another in support.
In education and child care, Oklahoma ranks 40. I do not blame this on the system, and as someone who does not use the established system, I would have every reason to, but I don’t. I see teachers who genuinely care for their students for years after they have them in class. (Hi, Mrs. Walcher!)
I wonder if the WalletHub is considering 4-H as a school extracurricular activity or community service.
As far as day care services, quality and cost, I know day care is hard. As a former licensed home day care, I remember days on my feet from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. caring for other people’s children. I remember trying to find time to get continuing education when I had no-one to watch my own children. I remember trying to keep up with the ever increasing rules and regulations, never-mind parent’s expectations. No wonder quality, affordable day care is hard to find in rural Oklahoma.
Ranking 42 in affordability, Oklahomans may understand the pinch WalletHub sees. The data considers housing, mortgage, savings, annual income and health insurance. Most rural residents understand we are living on much less than the rest of the nation. I think we should get extra points for the frugality and ingenuity our families learn through overcoming these hardships.
Could it be that rural Oklahoma children are a little less spoiled? Could it be that rural Oklahoma families are more thrifty, making the little they have go further? Could it be that rural Oklahoma students are more responsible?
I may be a little over-optimistic, but I do probably think more of rural Oklahoma than most people. I see potential. On a day-to-day basis, our children may seem like typical brats, but when the need arises, I see them rise to the challenge. I’ve seen children bottle feed burnt calves after wildfire. I’ve seen them take the burnt wood and barbed wire, and craft them into gifts. I’ve seen them host bake sales and fund raisers to help a family in need.
I worry with statistics and data like this that the majority of our nation who live in the metropolitan areas forget that a majority of our actual nation is rural farm and ranch land. Data like this can be disheartening to teachers, health care professionals and legislators when they see a low ranking. The things, activities and perceived lack of quality in a non-metropolitan lifestyle aren’t necessarily caused by or remedied with more state or federal funding which seems to be everyone’s first go-to solution.
I suggest we stop and count our blessings before we panic. While there is always, always going to be room for improvement, we do have many strengths to draw upon for growth. Let’s not sell ourselves short. We have great potential, especially when we consider the next generation.
Dawnita Fogleman is a Woodward News staff writer.