Sunday, January 15, 2023

New Oklahoma residents should not attempt to change the state to a ‘lite’ version of their previous zip code.

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

      A recent article in Forbes magazine addressed state to state migration.  According to Forbes, Americans are moving long-distances more than ever.  The increase has since the COVID-19 pandemic.  The ability to work remotely and the opportunity to pursue new avenues and opportunities have increased address changes from state to state by +5% in the past two years.  California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts are the five states Americans are fleeing.  Texas, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia are the top five U.S. states people are moving to.  Oklahoma ranks #13 among all states in state-to-state migration.

      Oklahoma population has increased each year the past twelve years.  The average growth has been about ½ percent per year.  It was recently announced Oklahoma’s population is now over four million for the first time in state history.  Oklahoma’s population growth has outpaced all bordering states with the exception of Texas.  There are two primary reasons people are moving to Oklahoma?

     First, the lower cost of living.   Oklahoma has the third-lowest cost of living in the United States, behind only Kansas and Mississippi.  Americans are fleeing states with a high cost of living, especially during inflationary times.  Migrants coming from California and New York to Oklahoma are paying 25% less for housing, 12% less for food and fuel.  While Oklahoma’s per capita income is lower than the regional average, the cost of living does make up for some of that deficiency.

     Second, politics.  Many of the new residents in the state trekked here because of politics.  Some came because they love the lax medical marijuana laws and the accessibility to casino gambling.  Others came because Oklahoma’s governor and legislature didn’t shut down the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Still others came to Oklahoma because the state is more politically conservative than the state they were living in. The Oklahoma legislature has passed some of the most pro-life legislation in the United States and gun rights are celebrated in the Sooner state. 

     New blood brings new opportunities.  Oklahoma currently has five U.S. House districts.  If population growth continues, it could add an additional seat after the 2030 census. Additional population means more manpower/labor force available in the state.  That in turn attracts employers and helps existing businesses grow.  

     Newcomers can also present challenges.  They bring with them their values, principles, morals, ethics, and politics to their new location.  They often work to convert those in their new locale to their world view instead of accepting/embracing what/who/where they are.  New settlers introduce new ideas, customs, and values to their new state.  Instead of converging or moving toward union or uniformity, they diverge and divide the state.

     Most of those moving to Oklahoma for political reasons are moving from Democratic controlled states.  In their previous state, they were considered conservative, but in truly conservative Oklahoma, their views are moderate at best.   

     Oklahomans should welcome migrants from other states with open arms.  Legendary college football coach, Frosty Westering said it best; “You are either green and growing or ripe and rotting.” But Oklahomans should not embrace their politics and values.  If newcomers came to Oklahoma because their previous state was too liberal, they should accept Oklahoma is the most conservative state in the U.S. and not attempt to change it to a ‘lite’ version of their previous zip code.   

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