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Oklahoma City, Tulsa growing in different ways

Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas are at the front lines of emerging demographic trends in population, aging, immigration and education, according to an analysis of census data by the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.

BY PAUL MONIES Modified: May 17, 2010 at 6:13 am •  Published: May 17, 2010
The natural rivalry between 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, while 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, while 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. For more discussion on the Brookings report and to view... To read the report

The new metros

Here are selected characteristics of the seven types of metropolitan areas categorized by the Brookings Institution:

1. Next Frontier: high growth, high diversity, high education

2. New Heartland: high growth, low diversity, high education

3. Diverse Giant: low growth, high diversity, high education

4. Border Growth: high growth, high diversity, low education

5. Mid-sized Magnet: high growth, low diversity, low education

6. Skilled Anchor: low growth, low diversity, high education

7. Industrial Core: low growth, low diversity, low education

State of Metro America
The Brookings Institution has grouped the country’s top 100 metro areas into places that share similar demographic characteristics.

Mid-sized magnets

Industrial cores

Source: Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program

For more on the Brookings report and to view an interactive map, go to


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