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New Research Sheds Light On Oklahoma’s ‘Brain Drain’

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College graduates are leaving Oklahoma at higher rates than any other demographic group according to the Kansas City Federal Reserve. New research shows the state lost a record number of college graduates from 2013 to 2017.

 

“Not only have more been moving out than moving into Oklahoma the last five years, the outflow has been the biggest since at least the 90s,” said Federal Reserve economist Chad Wilkerson, who led the research. “ It has also been concentrated heavily in what I call ‘working age categories,’ especially the 25 to 34 age range.”

 

 

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The study is a follow-up to research Wilkerson published in April on general migration trends. He found that the net loss of residents has pushedOklahoma’s population growth rate to its lowest point since 1990, with college graduates leading the way.  

 

Oklahoma is losing over 5,000 graduates each year, and most are moving to Texas. Other popular destinations include Washington, Colorado, Arkansas and California.

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Wilkerson pointed out that the number of college graduates moving into Oklahoma has held steady.

“The issue is not attracting college graduates to Oklahoma. It's keeping ones who are here from going somewhere else,” Wilkerson explained. “It creates a different potential set of solutions.”

Wilkerson warns the trend could have long-term consequences for Oklahoma’s economy, because earning and spending tend to increase with education.

Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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