Eighty years ago, in the midst of a deep economic crisis, tens of thousands of Oklahomans headed west for California in hopes of improving their quality of life.
Today, something quite the opposite is taking place. Each month since the beginning of the Great Recession in the fall of 2008, thousands of Californians have relocated to Oklahoma or Texas seeking better opportunities and a lower cost for better living.
A recent article in the Daily Oklahoman carrying the headline, “Migration stats indicate reverse ‘Grapes of Wrath’” pointed to this trend:
According to the Internal Revenue Service, Californians relocating to Oklahoma is a growing phenomenon in a sort of reverse “Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck’s Depression-era account of Okies moving from the Dust Bowl to work in the California orchards.
Based roughly on tax return exemptions, the number of Californians moving here outnumbered Sooners moving there by 21,376 from 1999 to 2008, the latest data available.
I’m not surprised. Our pro business climate, affordable housing and lower cost of living make for an appealing quality-of-life proposition.
Here is a map, generated using a special utility built by Forbes.com that graphically shows household moves to and from Oklahoma in 2008.
The graph shows significant movement to Oklahoma from the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle areas. This trend has only accelerated over the last two years. In fact, an Economic Development Group in which I am a member was recently told by a recruiter that one half of all new private sector jobs last year were created in Texas.
I’m convinced that Oklahoma has many of the same strengths as our neighbor to the south. And that means more and more Californians are going to discover what a lot of us have known for a long time. That is, Oklahoma is a wonderful place to live, work, do business, and raise a family.