A new report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City shows the 21st century has been less than kind to Oklahoma when it comes to state's inability to retain its college-educated residents.
In its first-quarter 2019 edition of the Oklahoma Economist, analysts at the Federal Reserve Bank's Oklahoma City Branch found that while the recent "brain drain" from Oklahoma might show signs of slowing, the net loss of college graduates that has occurred since 2012 "actually continued a trend from the previous decade."
While the net loss of college-educated residents is relatively small when compared to the state's population — about a 10,000 net loss during the first decade of the 21st century — the trend is disturbing. Analysts conclude in the report that "having more college graduates move out than move into the state can affect total educational attainment, which in turn could affect overall incomes and tax revenues, as higher educated people tend to earn and spend more."
With nearly two decades of evidence, leaders in this state need to be aware that present policies — if there are any — have failed to reverse a trend some might have thought was linked to an economic slump tied to a drop in oil prices. Apparently there is more to it, and whatever it is this report shows college graduates are finding it in primarily in Texas then Washington, Colorado, California and Arkansas.
The Gallup Well-Being Index for 2018 showed each of those states, with the exception of Arkansas, ranked much higher than Oklahoma when assessed on five essential elements of well-being. Those metrics include satisfying careers, supportive social relationships, financial stability, safe and secure communities, and good physical health.
CNBC's annual ranking of the economic climate of states reported similar findings in 2018, using 10 broad categories in its assessment. The factor given the most weight was workforce — specifically the net migration of college-educated workers — followed by infrastructure, quality of life, technology, innovation and education.
Steps have been taken to address some of these, but much more needs to be done. And it needs to be done sooner rather than later — there's little time to waste.