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Population Trends in Oregon's Counties, Cities, and Towns
by Gail Krumenauer
Published Mar-6-2012

Annual population changes were also relatively small by county, ranging from a loss of 0.9 percent in Harney County to a gain of 1.1 percent in Hood River County (Figure 1). Washington County saw the largest increase in the number of residents (5,300), while Crook County had the largest nominal population decline (-165). The average change in county population was an increase of 565 residents over the year.

The 2011 population estimates also include counts for 242 incorporated cities and towns. Oregon's smallest incorporated place was Greenhorn, with a population of two. It's no surprise that Portland had the largest population with 585,845 residents. However, the residents within the city of Portland accounted for just under one-third (32%) of the total population of the Portland metro area, which includes five counties.

Between 2010 and 2011, Vernonia lost 2.1 percent of its population (-45 people), the greatest decline of all cities and towns over the year. Overall, eight places saw population declines in 2011 (Table 1). At the same time, population growth was essentially flat in 110 places, and population counts rose in 124 cities or towns across the state. Rivergrove experienced the fastest growth in 2011, with an uncharacteristically large population increase of 29.3 percent. The largest increase in the number of residents occurred in Portland, which added 2,070 to its total population in 2011. Population gains could be due to any combination of net in-migration, a natural increase, and annexation.

Broader variation in population growth appears when looking at the change over a decade. Between 2001 and 2011, Oregon added 387,240 residents, or 11.2 percent, to the statewide population. At the county level, population changes ranged from a loss of 6.6 percent in Sherman County to a gain of 32.7 percent in Deschutes County. Eight counties - all rural - lost population over the 10-year period. Eight counties also matched or exceeded the statewide growth rate; six of them constituted all or part of a metropolitan area (Figure 2). In Coos County, population growth was flat between 2001 and 2011.

There were 239 cities and towns with population counts in both 2001 and 2011. Among these places, 57 experienced population declines, 176 saw gains, and population growth was flat for six of them. Happy Valley and Sisters grew at the fastest rates. The population of Happy Valley nearly tripled from 4,930 to 14,330 (+191%), while the number of residents in Sisters more than doubled (+1,095 or 114%). By contrast, the largest rates of decline occurred in Unity and Idanha; each lost more than 40 percent of their respective populations. Shifts in the number of residents between 2001 and 2011 were largest in Coquille (-325) and Portland (+49,605).

Over the last year and the last decade, Portland, the I-5 corridor, and (recently to a lesser degree) Central Oregon have seen the bulk of Oregon's population growth, while numbers decline for places in rural counties, particularly those in Eastern Oregon.

Table 1
Incorporated Cities or Towns With Population Decline, 2010-2011
Place 2010 2011 Change Percent Change
Vernonia 2,155 2,110 -45 -2.1%
Wallowa 810 805 -5 -0.6%
Tillamook 4,920 4,905 -15 -0.3%
Creswell 5,030 5,015 -15 -0.3%
St. Helens 12,911 12,890 -21 -0.2%
Dayton 2,535 2,530 -5 -0.2%
Reedsport 4,150 4,145 -5 -0.1%
John Day 1,756 1,755 -1 -0.1%
Source: Portland State University, Population as of July 1
Figure 1
Population change by county 2010-2011
Figure 2
Population by county 2001-2011