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Migration Patterns in the Past Five Years
by Jessica Nelson
Published Mar-26-2012

Oregon is an in-migration state. For many years, more people have moved into Oregon each year than have moved out of the state. This population growth fuels the expansion of our cities and brings new brain power to be the economic engine of Oregon's future. Workers in some occupational groups are more likely to move than others. Where do these in-migrants come from? And when Oregonians leave, where do they go?

New data from the American Community Survey (ACS) five-year panel (2005-2009) can provide some information about migration characteristics that hasn't been available before. Specifically, we can now look at migration into and out of Oregon by major occupational group.

Oregon Migration by Occupation Group
The largest occupational groups also had the largest net in-migration numbers. The top five occupational groups by net in-migration are in this situation - they employ a lot of workers, so their average in-migration during the period accounted for about 2 percent of their 2010 employment. That share is pretty typical; most groups had in-migration numbers ranging from 2 to 3 percent of their estimated 2010 employment. (This is not a scientific calculation: the 2010 employment numbers by occupation have no bearing on migration patterns, but they do provide a context for migration trends in different occupational groups.)

The first surprise is in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media, where net in-migration is estimated above 2,000 per year. This is a small group of occupations in Oregon, with 2010 employment estimated at a little more than 23,000, so the net in-migration in Table 1 accounted for about 9 percent of 2010 employment. The only other group with that magnitude of in-migration when compared with employment levels was extraction workers, near the bottom of the table, where employment is small enough that the tiny level of in-migration accounts for about 10 percent of the employment estimated in 2010.

Military occupations are the only group where net in-migration is negative: the number of people in military occupations that move out of Oregon exceeds the number moving into Oregon by close to 1,000 each year. That makes sense; since the state has no major military bases, service members would tend to move out.

Another way to look at this data is to think about the flow of people in and out of the state. If you sum up Oregon's in-migrants and out-migrants by occupation, it's possible to see where there's a lot of flow, but since it is in both directions it isn't captured by the net in-migration numbers. For instance, the 1,977 net in-migration for managers masks the true level of flow in that area - an average of nearly 13,000 management workers move in a given year, but we're gaining only 1,977 more managers than we're losing. Another field with high levels of migration flow is the transportation and material moving occupations, where nearly 11,000 workers move, but those moving in only outnumber those moving out by about 1,000. Construction trades also have just about 11,000 workers moving either in or out of Oregon each year, but there the in- and out-flow are nearly identical, leaving net in-migration of just 200 workers each year.

Table 1
Average Annual Migration by Occupation Group (2005-2009)
  Oregon In-Migrants Oregon Out-Migrants Net In-Migration Estimate
Office and Administrative Support  14,365 9,498 4,867
Sales  13,223 9,498 3,725
Food Preparation and Serving  9,906 6,795 3,111
Education, Training, and Library  6,197 3,392 2,805
Production  5,771 3,612 2,159
Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media  3,751 1,731 2,020
Management  7,409 5,432 1,977
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical  4,790 3,230 1,560
Farming, Fishing, and Forestry  2,539 1,110 1,429
Computer and Mathematical  3,470 2,072 1,398
Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance  3,925 2,543 1,382
Community and Social Services  3,014 1,716 1,298
Personal Care and Service  3,882 2,676 1,206
Business and Financial Operations  3,437 2,303 1,134
Transportation and Material Moving  5,896 4,793 1,103
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair  2,770 2,134 636
Architecture and Engineering  2,543 1,995 548
Protective Service  1,830 1,522 308
Life, Physical, and Social Science  1,357 1,076 281
Healthcare Support  2,176 1,905 271
Construction Trades 5,534 5,315 219
Extraction Workers 124 81 43
Military  763 1,750 -987
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2005-2009 five-year estimates
Patterns in Selected States
Many of the states in Table 2 won't come as a surprise. Oregon shares migration flow with all of its neighbors and several other western states. This table doesn't tell the full story - there was migration flow between Oregon and every other state in the nation between 2005 and 2009. States are included in the table when in-migrants or out-migrants numbered more than 3,000, and when net in-migration exceeded 1,000.

California was by far the greatest source of net in-migrants to Oregon. An estimated average of 43,775 people moved from California to Oregon each year during the period, while 20,241 moved from Oregon to California - leaving estimated net in-migration of more than 23,000 each year. The next largest net migration number was Washington's: Oregon loses about 3,500 more residents to the Evergreen State each year than the state gains from that source.

Table 2
Selected States' Migration Connections With Oregon
  Oregon In-Migrants Oregon Out-Migrants Net In-Migration Estimate
California 43,775 20,241 23,534
Alaska 2,958 1,922 1,036
Hawaii 2,704 1,676 1,028
Illinois 1,905 879 1,026
Florida 3,223 2,504 719
Colorado 3,779 3,112 667
Nevada 3,186 2,980 206
Texas 4,601 4,824 -223
Arizona 5,976 6,349 -373
Idaho 6,203 6,953 -750
Utah 2,055 3,244 -1,189
Washington 22,801 26,259 -3,458
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2005-2009 five-year estimates
Caveat on International Destinations
One caveat using this data series is that out-migration is not captured for international destinations. That means that net in-migration is overstated for an occupational group or geographic area when there has been some migration to other countries, and we have no way to tease that out using these estimates. It is possible that movers to international destinations are concentrated in particular occupations, and if that is the case then these estimates miss the boat to some extent. Let's put some numbers with this generality: based on ACS data, Oregon's average net in-migration during the 2005 to 2009 period was 48,498. In comparison, more robust estimates from the Population Research Center at Portland State University show average net in-migration of about 27,000 per year. The discrepancy is attributed to the lack of destination data for international out-migrants.