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OSU research report notes positive trend in domestic migration

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Media Contact: Alex Christy | Communication Specialist | 405-744-5496 |

Research completed by the Oklahoma State University Wes Watkins Center for International Trade Development challenges the common “brain drain” narrative that young, well-educated individuals are moving out of Oklahoma.

Following a 2022 report that ranked Oklahoma 11th nationally for net domestic migration, the CITD team began exploring a phenomenon they call “Brain Drain Reversal.” Led by director Andrew Ranson and School of Global Studies faculty member Dr. John Schoeneman, the team embarked on a comparative analysis, measuring Oklahoma’s attractiveness and competitiveness against that of Tennessee. The result is their research report, entitled "Oklahoma Brain Drain Reversal: What is happening, and what can we learn?"

The study notes that Oklahoma has witnessed its highest gains in net domestic migration (or new residents from other parts of the nation) since 1999. Recently, this trend has strengthened as Oklahoma ranked 11th nationally for interest in moving services during 2022.  As a result, Oklahoma City is now the nation's 20th largest city, and Tulsa grew by 7,000 new residents in 2021.  Tulsa is expected to grow a further 6% between 2021 and 2027. 

This period of increased growth began during the COVID pandemic, when a significant number of people moved to Oklahoma from Califiornia and Texas, among other states. The authors of the study state that "this positive inflow includes people with some college education, including associate degrees, and diverse professionals between 25-52 years old. This indicates that the state is receiving new workforce participants and intellectual capital, in addition to people moving for retirement, health and family reasons."

"The data shows that Oklahoma has established itself as an attractive destination for the U.S. labor force," Ranson said. "The importance of this cannot be overstated, as the dynamics of business vitality and expanding the workforce are mutually reinforcing and are supported by larger trends like nearshoring. Oklahoma must take advantage of this window of opportunity to continue and accelerate these various dynamics for the long-term development of the state."

Click here to read the full report and other research produced by the CITD.

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