It topped the list of seven points about Tulsa's changing population: "The city's not growing, and the county's only growing slightly," said Phil Dessauer, executive director for the Community Service Council.
Dessauer read from his presentation at a Sept. 12 committee meeting of the Tulsa City Council, highlighting research put together in hopes of shining a light on trends -- some obvious, some less so -- that will shape the city in the years ahead.
To begin, Dessauer pointed out that about two out of every three census tracts -- small sections of the city used by U.S. Census Bureau -- lost population from 2000 to 2010.
Using maps as part of his presentation, Dessauer described a colored map that used green to show where the population increased in the city.
"The bright green, of course, is out in the far east and northeast," Dessauer said. "That's where the growth of the Hispanic population is."
In his presentation, he described how Tulsa fertility rates -- with the exception of Hispanic births -- generally aren't high enough to replace the existing population.
"We are not replacing ourselves. This is a global phenomenon," Dessauer said, referring to other countries with a similar population profile.
In Tulsa, this could play out in some interesting ways, as Deassauer pointed out. For example, a census tract just north of the Southern Hills Country Club and E. 61st Street, between S. Lewis Avenue and S. Harvard Avenue, is considered to be somewhat of a wealthy enclave, with Dessauer describing home values between roughly between $300,000 and $400,000.
Yet about one in four who live there are 65 or older. And within a population of about 3,000, there were only about 40 children under the age of five.
Dessauer said a similar census tract is near Saint Francis hospital.
"Ten to fifteen years from now, who's going to live in those census tracts?" asked Dessauer.
City Councilor Blake Ewing interjected, bringing some levity to Dessauer's talk. "I'm going to live there," said Ewing, who is in his 30s. "But I'm only going to pay $150,000."
The presentation and others similar to it have been given at least somewhat frequently in recent years; before Dessauer began, Councilor G.T. Bynum smiled and called the data "generally depressing."
The upshot, at least in Dessauer's mind, is to realize that because of the loss of many skilled workers from the labor force because of age, it's important to pay attention to those still developing their skills.
Statewide, Dessauer noted that projections call for the number of people 19 and under to be about the same as those over 80 by the year 2035.
"We better quickly move to everybody counts, because everybody's got to count," Dessauer said. Yet he also pointed to a statistic that seems at least potentially ominous.
In Tulsa County, "60 percent of all the infants are born to mothers with a high school education or less," Dessauer said. While he didn't mention how many of those women continue on with their education, he called a mother's educational attainment "the number one indicator of future success of a child."
The mood was a bit different at a similar presentation given the same day at Tulsa Community College.
There, Jan Figart, an associate director at the Community Service Council, gave a presentation on diversity at Tulsa Community College to about two dozen students, faculty and community members.
"The three areas I want to touch on -- because they are the burgeoning issue not only of today, but of the next 30 years -- is women, economics and culture," Figart said at the beginning of her presentation.
She noted that trend is for more women to serve as head of a household, noting that "women are choosing to not remain in married couple households as long as they used to." Figart noted statistics that show that in Tulsa County, almost exactly half of women 20 to 34 have never been married.
Figart also noted Oklahoma's high ranking in the number of teen births. She suggested this may also contribute to the number of female-headed households. "We are seeing a growing number of households that, indeed, the dominant household member is a woman over 65," Figart said.
In Tulsa County and in Oklahoma, within five years there will be more people over 55 years of age than people under 24, Figart told the group.
"Now, the importance of that is, we vote. And we're baby boomers, and we're grouchy as hell," Figart said to a few chuckles in the room. "And so, we continue to vote our interests, even if they are not the young people's interests."
The growing life expectancy for young people now also presents challenges, said Figart.
"A baby born in 2000 in a developed county has a life expectancy of 100 years. Can you imagine 100 years in poverty? Can you imagine 100 years with a disability? Can you imagine being sentenced to life in prison? So we have to think in a whole new way in our country regarding just simply that aging of our population," Figart said.
Figart downplayed the distinctions made between groups involving race and ethnicity, although she noted that soon the white, non-Latino population will likely shrink from where it is currently, at about 64 percent, to below 50 percent in Tulsa County. "The entire under 18 population is now 'minority-majority,'" Figart said.
But with the increasing number of people identifying as being of two or more races, she said such distinctions will have less meaning by 2030.
"The two great ethnicities that we're going to see in the United States of America is, do you have a college education, or do you not?" Figart said.
Asked by the crowd about efforts to attract college-educated people to Tulsa -- about one in four residents over 25 have at least a bachelor's degree in Tulsa -- Figart praised groups like Tulsa's Young Professionals. But she said economics ultimately drive such migration.
"If we don't change the economics of our community, no matter how nice a BOK Center that we have, no matter how nice a Blue Dome area that we have, place does not keep people," Figart said. "Money keeps people, and opportunity brings people here. And that is the magic we have not recreated."
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