Culture & the Family

Jonathan Small, J. Scott Moody & Wendy Warcholik, Ph.D. | December 9, 2015

Oklahoma’s Private Sector Economy by County

Jonathan Small, J. Scott Moody & Wendy Warcholik, Ph.D.

The following excerpt is from an article published in the December issue of Perspective titled Oklahoma's Shrinking Private Sector. – Editor

Personal income is an important economic measure of a state’s well-being. Higher levels of personal income mean that a state’s residents are able to purchase more goods and services such as homes, cars, education, and health care. Fundamentally, personal income comes from two sources: the private sector and the public sector. The distinction between these two sectors is important because only the private sector creates new income. The public sector can only redistribute income through taxes and spending.

In 2014, Oklahoma’s private-sector share of personal income was 69.4 percent and ranked as the 29th largest in the country. However, the size of the private sector varies greatly by county. As shown in Chart 3 and Table 1, the county with the largest private sector in 2013 (the latest data available at the county level) was Logan County at 81.1 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, Cherokee, Jackson, and Comanche counties had the smallest private sectors at 45.2 percent, 42 percent, and 41.5 percent, respectively.



However, a note of caution must be observed when interpreting Comanche and Jackson counties because each hosts a major U.S. military installation—Fort Sill in Comanche County and Altus Air Force Base in Jackson County. Military installations, generally speaking, are located far from dense population centers. As a result, they tend to dominate the local economy, which creates a distorted economic picture. Nonetheless, military installations are paid for by taxpayers and are not part of the private sector.

If we exclude Comanche and Jackson counties as unique cases, that leaves Cherokee County with the dubious distinction of having Oklahoma’s smallest private sector (45.2 percent), with nearly no military component. More disturbingly, Cherokee County is joined by 6 additional counties whose private-sector share also falls below 50 percent: Okfuskee (48.7 percent), Ottawa (48.4 percent), Choctaw (47.9 percent), Muskogee (47.2 percent), Love (46.5 percent), and Adair (46 percent).

Over the 1969 to 2013 time period, 13 counties saw increases in their private-sector shares: Washita (52 percent), Comanche (23 percent), Latimer (19 percent), Dewey (9 percent), Pittsburg (8 percent), Beckham (8 percent), Ellis (6 percent), Woodward (5 percent), Oklahoma (5 percent), Logan (5 percent), Johnston (4 percent), Custer (2 percent), and Canadian (2 percent). The remaining counties mirrored the state average with declining private-sector shares. The steepest drop belongs to Ottawa County, falling 36 percent—to 48.4 percent in 2013 from 76.1 percent in 1969.

Read the entire article here.

Jonathan Small President

Jonathan Small


Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

J. Scott Moody

OCPA Research Fellow

OCPA research fellow J. Scott Moody (M.A., George Mason University) serves as chief executive officer of State Budget Solutions. Formerly a senior economist at the Tax Foundation and a senior economist at the Heritage Foundation, he has twice testified before the Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Moody is the co-creator of the Tax Foundation’s popular “State Business Tax Climate Index.” His work has appeared in Forbes, CNN Money, State Tax Notes, The Oklahoman, and several other publications. This article is an updated version of an analysis published in 2008.

Wendy Warcholik, Ph.D.

OCPA Research Fellow

Wendy P. Warcholik (Ph.D., George Mason University) is an OCPA research fellow. She formerly served as an economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, and was the chief forecasting economist for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services. She is a co-creator (with J. Scott Moody) of the Tax Foundation’s popular “State Business Tax Climate Index.”

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