Ray Carter | February 3, 2023
As conservative policies advance, people are moving to Oklahoma
During Gov. Kevin Stitt’s first term in office, he cut taxes, expanded school choice, restrained government growth to build up record state savings, and imposed COVID restrictions that were far more limited in scope and duration than those in many states.
Today, Stitt is calling for more tax cuts and wants to expand school choice so all families can use tax funds for any school, including private schools.
Stitt’s critics have decried those policy choices. But new data show that citizens across the country have reached their own verdict: Many now see Oklahoma as a place they want to live.
A new report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), based on United States Postal Service change-of-address data, shows that more people moved to Oklahoma in 2022 than all but nine other states.
The 10 states experiencing the largest domestic net migration were Florida, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona, Idaho, Alabama, and Oklahoma. In contrast, 24 states experienced a net loss in domestic migration.
The report showed that 26,791 people moved to Oklahoma in 2022.
While Stitt’s critics harshly criticized his lack of major, sustained COVID restrictions in 2020 and 2021, the NAR data suggests other states that embraced such policies drove people away to places like Oklahoma.
According to Oklahoma’s Weekly Epidemiology and Surveillance Report for January 22-28, 2023, Oklahoma ranks 14th nationally in the cumulative death rate (per 100,000 persons) of reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S., while Hawaii had the lowest per-capita COVID death rate in the nation.
But the NAR report shows that Hawaii experienced significant domestic out-migration in 2022, losing 15,212 residents.
Similarly, the three states losing the greatest number of residents in 2022 were California (343,230 residents departed), New York (299,557), and Illinois (141,656), each of which imposed much more significant COVID restrictions than Oklahoma.
Those population-losing states also have generally higher taxes than Oklahoma, and leaders in those states have not called for statewide school-choice programs.
In an election night speech given after he was declared the victor in the governor’s race last November, Stitt cited his record as a major contributor to Oklahoma’s economic growth that has made the state attractive to outsiders.
“We now have the brightest economy in our state’s history,” Stitt said. “You know, Americans from across the nation are moving to the great state of Oklahoma in record numbers.”
He also alluded to the concerns the influx might cause native Oklahomans with a quip.
“You know the state we’re getting the most from?” Stitt asked. “That’s right: California. And I had to wait 18 years to vote in Oklahoma, so I’m going to make them wait 18 years to vote in Oklahoma.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.