The Index State Spotlights: Idaho & Oklahoma

by Sean Kesluk   •  

This Tuesday the primaries will make their presence felt in Idaho and Oklahoma. The two states, which are expected to support the Republican nominee in the election later this year, have both been hit hard by the economic downturn.

Idaho’s housing market is still struggling to recover following the recession. The Opportunity Index reveals many of the challenges still facing the Gem State. Idaho is ranked 28th among states in access to opportunity, according to the Index, and boasts an 8.4% unemployment rate.

While it’s on-time high school graduation rate may be above national average, its pre-school enrollment rate is well below, and as such far fewer of its citizens hold a secondary degree relative to the rest of the nation. These are key indicators of growth, and Idaho – like many states – would likely fare better with increased educational investment, as the President called for from the states last week. As Idaho continues to navigate its bloated budget and reckon with expected cuts, perhaps the caucus results will be an indicator of the direction of the state.

Another state out west is facing similar challenges. Oklahoma is currently ranked 38th in the nation among states for access to opportunity, according to the Opportunity Index. Despite an unemployment rate hovering around 6%, easily one of the lower rates in America, progress remains difficult in the Sooner State. With a median household income much lower than the national average, low levels of higher education, and relatively high violent crime per capita we can see clear barriers to opportunity in the state.

Rick Santorum visited Oklahoma on Sunday – a state he is expecting to win on Super Tuesday – and encouraged Oklahomans to cast their ballot for the candidate best prepared to revive the nation’s economy and put Americans back to work. The speech was perhaps distinct in its lack of reference to many of the hot-button social issues that have been such a strong part of Santorum’s campaign.

On Super Tuesday, we are reminded once again that issues of economic opportunity and social mobility will be out front come election day. Opportunity Nation is encouraging candidates and politicians across the country to recognize the importance of these issues, and to recognize that these are the issues Americans care about and that need to be addressed by our citizens and our government. These issues are our future.

Sean Kesluk

Opportunity Nation

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