Poverty in Oklahoma City Neighborhoods

A Mobile Video Project

In Oklahoma’s capital, the voices of low-income people are like faintly heard footsteps behind the long march of an oil and gas boom, which is stumbling. Some impoverished areas seem stuck in time, struggling with blight, crime and other issues. University of Oklahoma students and Oklahoma Watch journalists joined forces to gather short videos and deep data about residents’ concerns in these areas and then record responses from leaders—a virtual conversation.

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Newest Videos

Pothole Damage

Potholes may seem trivial, but they can be indicators of overall street quality and prove costly for low-income residents whose vehicles are damaged from large holes.

Abandoned Schools

Tearing down vacant, privately owned structures is difficult. But why can’t publicly owned buildings be razed or fixed up? Lacreitia Jamison points to abandoned school buildings.

Home Ownership

In low-income areas, renters are prevalent and the degree of tenant and landlord neglect is stark. As a long-time homeowner, Herbert Booker is not happy with what he sees.

Road Safety

Chris Walker said overgrown brush covers street signs, blocks intersections and obscures traffic, making driving on some of Oklahoma City’s back roads too dangerous.

Mental Health

Resident: Carter Evans, West Oklahoma City https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaFFCKtlQJ4 Context: Evans has struggled with addiction and mental and physical health problems for years, but in 2012 he was able to get effective help. That hasn’t happened with his son, who Evan says is 42, drinks and takes speed, and is living on the streets. “I don’t know…

Lack of Street Lighting

Resident: Mekeisha Daily, Northeast Oklahoma City https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5JidlzEs5I Context: Areas on the northeast side lack adequate streetlights. Mekeisha Daily would like to see the city install better lighting, which she believes will help cut down on crime in the area. She is looking to move because she doesn’t feel that she or her kids are safe.…

Overgrown Brush

Resident: Linda Campbell, Northeast Oklahoma City https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMZJ1xlDNj8 Context: Campbell recently moved to Oklahoma City from Midwest City. She enjoys how close her home is to her job and sees potential in the area. She purchased the lot next to her and wants to purchase the lot on the other side as well. She wants her…

Low Voter Turnout

Leroy Davis speaks with a raw eloquence about what he feels is at the heart of a poor quality of life in south Oklahoma City. He sees one overriding reason for the lack of “the vote.”

Running Stop Signs

Drivers running stop signs are a common sight for Rutledge Murray. He wants to see police to step up traffic enforcement.

Mapping Poverty

Where Videos Are Recorded

The neighborhoods where “Talk With Us” videos are being shot have some of the highest poverty rates and percentages of minority residents in Oklahoma City. Two of those areas have historic significance and emanate a cultural pride. The third has little identity, comprised of seedy apartments and modest homes.

Life in Poor Neighborhoods

Many people have exaggerated fears about low-income neighborhoods. Residents there have many of the same concerns, graces and hopes that define any community. But statistics bear out the extremes of suffering connected with poverty. Professor David Moxley speaks to the forces at work in poor areas. Councilman John Pettis talks of growing up in one.

YouTube video

David Moxley
Professor, Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work
University of Oklahoma, Norman

YouTube video

John Pettis
Councilman, Ward 7
Oklahoma City

Numbers That Matter


Living below poverty level, Oklahoma City, 2009-2013


State’s ranking in per-pupil common-education spending, at $7,466 per student, 2012.


Bachelor’s degree or higher, age 25-plus, Oklahoma City, 2009-2013


Hispanics in Oklahoma City, 2010


Population, Oklahoma City, 2013


Hispanics in 149-member Oklahoma Legislature, 2015


African-Americans in Oklahoma City, 2010


African-Americans or women on the 8-member Oklahoma City Council, including mayor.


Number of offenders in Oklahoma prisons and jails, yielding the second highest rate in nation, 2013.


Hispanics on the 8-member Oklahoma City Council, including mayor.