LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Tens of thousands of new people are making the Natural State their home each year, and where they are coming from may be a surprise.

According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the top five states largest numbers of license transfers from out of state in 2023 are from Texas, California, Missouri, Oklahoma and Florida.

2023 license transfers into Arkansas (from out of state)

  1. Texas – 5,793 transfers
  2. California – 3,239 transfers
  3. Missouri – 2,329 transfers
  4. Oklahoma – 1,932 transfers
  5. Florida – 1,860 transfers

According to the DFA, California has taken the runner-up spot for at least two years, and they are interested in why.

“We would love to know the answer to that question,” DFA Spokesman Scott Hardin said. “What is it exactly? Why did you choose Arkansas? What is it that brought you here?”

So why are Californians moving across the country and into the South? At least one answer can be found in Searcy. In 2013, Frances Dow and her husband, David changed their home and license plates from California to Arkansas.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all about California,” she said. “We grew up there, and it’s not the same California at all.”

Dow said in Los Angeles she had to deal with more traffic, crime and expenses than she’s found during the last 10 years in Searcy, Arkansas. She also said some things you just can’t experience in California like you can in this new part of the country.

“Seasons are awesome. We love it. The slower pace we had to adjust to that,” Dow admitted. “That pace, we love it now. We’ve settled in, and to be rushed around, we don’t like that feeling anymore.”

To date 32,000 people have moved into the state, switching their license plates in 2023. California accounts for 10% of that number. 2022’s results show outside the south Colorado, Arizona, and Illinois also placed inside the top 10.

2022 license transfers into Arkansas (from out of state)

  1. Texas – 9,441 transfers
  2. California – 5,234 transfer
  3. Oklahoma – 3,305 transfers
  4. Florida – 2,840 transfers
  5. Tennessee – 2,427 transfers
  6. Louisiana – 2,265 transfers
  7. Colorado – 1,953 transfers
  8. Arizona – 1,773 transfers
  9. Illinois – 1,698 transfers
  10. Mississippi – 1,446 transfers

“Arkansas has momentum right now,” Hardin stated.

More than 48 million people visited the Natural State during the calendar year of 2022 according to the Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Shea Lewis and the agency’s 2022 economic impact report. Seven million visitors from the previous year Lewis claimed.

Hardin further stated Arkansas was one of the top states for people to move to within the last year, to keep the momentum going the state is looking to eventually phase out income tax entirely.

“We’ve always said if we can just get people here, we can change their mind,” Hardin said. “Basically, once they’re here, the secret is out.”

DFA said the cost of living in Little Rock is almost 40% that of California. Because of cost-of-living differences, when Dow sold her house, she also got to take some money with her and “buy nicer.”

Dow said her primary reason for exiting California above any other was to move to a more conservative state.

“They [Dow’s family] did want us to move back, and we said no way. Not when we’re watching what’s happening politically there,” Dow said. “I think we were Arkies from the start we just didn’t know it.”

The Department of Finance said they are seeing the least momentum from Northeastern states. At least 20 people from every state have transferred a license to Arkansas, but the lowest number of license transfers has come from Vermont with 21 so far in 2023.

Arkansas also has reciprocal agreements with France, Germany, Taiwan, South Korea and the Province of Manitoba, Canada that allow license transfers without a driving test. Already this year, 30 people have moved to Arkansas from South Korea and transferred a driver’s license along with 85 from France, seven from Taiwan, and six from Manitoba. This year 104 people have transferred licenses from Puerto Rico.