Note: This is a slightly longer version of today’s story:
BY PAUL MONIES
The natural rivalry between the Oklahoma’s two largest cities has been overtaken by the way both have grown in the last decade.
Oklahoma City now has more in common with Tampa, Fla., and Boise, Idaho, than it does with Tulsa. Meanwhile, Tulsa is more like Wichita, Kan., and Cleveland, Ohio, than Oklahoma City.
That’s according to a new study of Census data in the nation’s top 100 metropolitan areas — which include two-thirds of the U.S. population — by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based public policy organization. The metros range in size from 500,000 people in Modesto, Calif., to 19 million in New York City. The study clusters metro areas into seven groups that share characteristics.
As a “mid-sized magnet” metro, Oklahoma City has had higher growth, lower diversity and lower educational levels than most other metropolitan areas. Tulsa, grouped into the “industrial core” type, has lower growth, lower diversity and lower educational attainment than the national average among metros.
“The new metro map of the United States forces us to think outside the conventional regional boxes that have informed America’s narrative for generations,” said Bruce Katz, vice president and director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.
The Brookings analysis highlights the changing nature of America’s metro areas, central cities and their suburbs from 2000 to 2008. In Oklahoma, Tulsa and Oklahoma City are at the front lines of emerging immigration, income and aging trends. Among the highlights:
- Migration: Oklahoma City ranked seventh and Tulsa ranked 15th in the percentage of residents who moved in the last year.
- Income: Tulsa suburbs ranked second in median household income growth from 2000 to 2008. Oklahoma City suburbs ranked 14th in the same category. However, median household income in the two metro areas overall slipped because of declines in the central cities.
- Immigration: Oklahoma City suburbs ranked 10th in the proportion of foreign-born immigrants who have arrived since 2000. Tulsa suburbs ranked 94th in that category. Because it uses census data, the Brookings analysis does not make the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.
- Education: Roughly one-fourth of residents in Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas have bachelor’s degrees, putting the Oklahoma City metro at No. 69 and the Tulsa metro at No. 79.
- Transportation: The Oklahoma City metro area ranks eighth nationally in the percentage of commuters who drive to work alone. The Tulsa metro area came in at No. 30.
Neither Oklahoma City nor Tulsa was affected by the rapid rise and fall of home values affecting many other metro areas that was a factor in the current recession. Although both metros have been hit by manufacturing and service job losses and rising unemployment, their relatively stable housing markets and energy companies have buffeted those declines.
“As the economy began to deteriorate in other parts of the country, Oklahoma City was prospering,” said Eric Long, manager of economic research for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “Low unemployment, coupled with stability in our housing market, were big factors.”
Long said inquiries about relocating to Oklahoma City from both companies and individuals have picked up after dropping off in the last year or so. Many come from people looking for a fresh start.
“They are unhappy with employment and cost of living issues in their home states and have heard about Oklahoma City,” Long said. “They may not have relatives or know anyone here, but are still willing to take a chance on our city.”
Retaining college grads
Officials from Tulsa and Oklahoma City chambers mentioned the importance of attracting and retaining college graduates and entrepreneurs, who in the past might have sought jobs or started companies in larger regional metros such as Dallas or Denver.
Susan Harris, senior vice president of education and workforce for the Tulsa Metro Chamber, said if the Tulsa area can grow its percentage of residents with college degrees just one percentage point, it would mean an extra $646 million per year in economic activity. The Tulsa metro area had a gross domestic product of $45 billion in 2008, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.
“We know a city that doesn’t grow dies, so growth is important,” Harris said. “Everything we’re doing is about making sure we are open and receptive to new people coming in and living here, locating their businesses and bringing their families and we are receptive to higher density development in the inner core of the city.
Harris said the chamber is working with colleges, universities and businesses to identify residents who were close to finishing a degree but never did. Another effort includes tightening the integration of career pathways. For example, in the nursing field, it includes ways for certified nursing assistants to get their licensed practical nurse certification and for registered nurses to get bachelor of science degrees in nursing.
More poor in suburbs
Nationally, the Brookings report found 53 percent of the metro poor now live in suburbs, up from 48 percent in 2000. This increasing suburbanization of poverty has implications for policymakers, who have traditionally directed social programs to large cities, said Alan Berube, Ö who headed up the analysis for the Metropolitan Policy Program.
The latest food stamp numbers from the state Department of Human Services shows that the number of people getting food stamps in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metros rose more than 30 percent between February 2009 and February 2010. But most outlying counties in those metro areas posted higher percentage increases than Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.
Katz, meanwhile, said America’s population growth and diversity, particularly in its metro areas, may be its “ace in the hole.”
“In the global context, the United States is a demographically blessed nation,” he said. “Established competitors like Japan, Britain and Germany are either growing slowly or actually declining; rising nations like China remain relatively homogenous.”
The Oklahoman’s Watchdog Team: Looking out for you.
Read the entire Brookings report on the new metro landscape.
Oklahoma fact sheets:
Written by Paul Monies