Stilwell, Oklahoma, is the poorest
rural area in the northeastern part
of the state. (Best Places map)
Shelldon Miggletto, who recently resigned as city clerk of Stilwell, in the poorest rural area in northeastern Oklahoma, told Overall, “We’re the forgotten poor. Or maybe we’re not forgotten, just ignored. We have three to four generations of families in which welfare is a way of life. They don’t know any better. They don’t know how to break out of the cycle."
According to Oklahoma Policy, the three main factors that contribute to rural poverty are: lack of amenities, leaving people with nothing to do; geographic isolation, with no cities close by or a lack of transportation opportunities; and social norms, such as teenage parents, no jobs and low education, which leads many to adopt an attitude of "why try," Overall reports.
Such areas have lost a sense of community that once sustained them, says Lisa Pruitt, who grew up in rural Arkansas an hour from Stilwell, where she has family, and is a law professor at the University of California-Davis. She told Overall, "People have a misconception about rural poverty that it is somehow not as debilitating as urban poverty. We cling to the notions that small towns will still function as a community where people will rally around each other and help. So maybe you’re poor, but at least you’re living in this beautiful, pristine countryside and at least your neighbors will take care of you. It’s not like that at all.” (Read more)