Oklahoma drawing millennials, data show

For every two Millennials that move out of Oklahoma, the state is attracting three who move here, according to a new report.

That’s a higher rate, in percentage terms, than nearly all other states.

Governor Kevin Stitt is not surprised that Millennials — those between age 23 and 42 — view Oklahoma more favorably than many other states.

“When blue states like New York and California attack businesses, let criminals off scot-free and push sky-high taxes — it’s just a no-brainer why more young people choose Oklahoma,” Stitt said.

“Millennials are waking up, and they’re packing up their little apartments for freedom-loving red states. Oklahoma offers what Americans expect of their communities: livable cities, safe streets, and an acceptable cost of living. And once we ax the personal income tax, more Americans will move to Oklahoma like never before.”


In recent years, Oklahoma has adopted a number of policies that critics claimed would cause a mass exodus, such as creating a statewide school choice program that allows all families to consider private school, restricting abortion, banning the provision of cross-sex hormones to children, and imposing far fewer COVID mandates than most states.


However, data from a variety of sources have consistently shown those critics were wrong. Instead, Oklahoma is drawing far more people than it is losing and has ranked among the top states for relocation since the start of the COVID pandemic four years ago.


A new report from Hire a Helper, a moving company, provides the latest example.


The number of Millennials moving to Oklahoma in 2023 was 53 percent greater than the number moving out of the state that year, according to Hire a Helper. Only two states experienced a higher positive percentage of Millennial net moves.

Oklahoma City ranked in the top 10 cities nationwide, coming in at eighth, for new Millennial moves, with incoming Millennials 38 percent greater than outgoing. In contrast, both the New York City and San Jose, Calif., metros had over 50 percent more Millennials leave than move in.

The net positive change in Oklahoma was the highest, in percentage terms, in the region with only Texas coming close (+39 percent) followed by Kansas (+32 percent). Arkansas and Missouri experienced net losses while Colorado had minimal gains. New Mexico experienced a positive net gain among Millennials but lagged far behind Oklahoma with a gain of just 28 percent.

According to Hire a Helper, the “states Millennials were most keen to leave behind” were New York (-52 percent), California (-39 percent), Massachusetts (-28 percent), and Illinois (-25 percent).

“These states, infamous for their high cost of living, lost significantly more Millennials than they gained last year,” the Hire a Helper report stated.

Housing Affordability a Factor

The report also said, “The list of states Millennials were more likely to leave also highlights their sensitivity to home prices; as many as 19 percent of Millennials who left California, and 17 percent of those who left New York, moved to find cheaper housing — that was the highest percentage of housing cost-driven moves across all states.”

Angelena Harris, president of the MLSOK Board of Directors, a realtors’ association, said the cost of housing is a major draw for Oklahoma and is tied in part to the state’s regulatory environment.

“The availability of housing is better than some other areas,” Harris said.

“Even though we have low inventory, it’s still better here than other places. I think part of that is that building homes is easier in Oklahoma than in other places. A little bit less red tape and stuff like that makes that easier.”

The lower cost of living is also a factor, she said.

“A Millennial can actually afford to buy a house in Oklahoma, whereas if they’re in the northeast side of the country or south in Florida and places like that, it’s really expensive for them to buy a home, so a lot of them have to rent,” Harris said.

In other state markets, the size of home a young family can buy or rent is far smaller than what they can afford in Oklahoma.

In addition, Oklahoma’s low unemployment rate, which is tied to strong job growth, makes the area attractive to those looking to relocate.

Harris said the average median age of a person buying a home in Oklahoma is 40, according to the most recent data available.

Stitt, McCall Seek Income-Tax Phaseout

Income tax remains an issue for attracting upper-income families to Oklahoma.

While Oklahoma is attracting many young families, the state does not appear to fare as well in attracting higher-income families who invest in new businesses and create new jobs.

Oklahoma was among only a handful of states that had around 50 percent more Millennials move in than move out with the other states being Connecticut, Maine, Montana, and New HampshireTexas and South Carolina each saw incoming Millennials exceed outgoing counterparts by at least 39 percent.

“One possible explanation for why these particular destinations were chosen is due to household income,” the Hire a Helper report stated. “Those making interstate moves to Maine, Connecticut, and New Hampshire had a 29% higher household income than those moving to Montana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.”

To make Oklahoma more attractive to people at all income levels, Stitt has called for putting the state’s personal income tax on a path to zero by using growth revenue to gradually reduce the tax over time. He’s called for cutting the state’s 4.75 percent rate to 4.5 percent this year.

On April 3, the governor tweeted, “We don’t need more taxes, we need more taxpayers. If we cut the income tax, it instantly makes Oklahoma one of the most attractive states to move to—that’s how we stay competitive and expand our revenue base.”


He has noted that two years ago lawmakers cut the income tax by a quarter-point and shaved two percentage points off the corporate income tax. Since then, state revenue collections have increased by $1.5 billion.

“That’s been the trend after every tax cut we’ve passed,” Stitt wrote. “It’s not tax cuts that’ll get us in trouble, it’s the unrestricted growth of government.”


However, Senate leadership has so far balked at cutting the personal income tax.

But House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, supports putting the personal income tax on the path to full repeal, and the Oklahoma House of Representatives has already passed legislation to do that.


Recently, McCall noted that six years ago the state government’s appropriated budget was just about $6 billion. Today, it is around $11 billion.

“I just don’t think you can ignore the fact of how much our economy has grown over the last six years,” McCall said.

“With regard to personal income tax, it’s personally offensive to me that we’ve only made a quarter(-point) cut to the people of the state of Oklahoma. The revenues to the state have almost doubled in a six-year time frame. We should be doing more to cut the personal income tax.”


Note: This story first appeared online, here:

https://ocpathink.org/post/independent-journalism/oklahoma-drawing-millennials-data-show .

It is reposted here, with permission.