2015 Personal Incomes in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler Counties

by Dallas Fridley

February 13, 2017

Three rural Oregon counties, Gilliam, Sherman and Wheeler, offered three vastly different personal income totals in 2015 despite sharing many similarities. From a population standpoint, these rural county neighbors were small, with Wheeler County ranking 36th out of 36 Oregon counties, Sherman County in 35th position and Gilliam County at 34th. Despite their similar size, personal incomes, as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, painted a vastly different picture. Sherman County’s personal income total fell to $96.6 million in 2015 – a loss of $0.4 million or 0.4 percent over 2014. Gilliam County’s personal income rose by a substantial 7.6 percent or $5.7 to reach $81.2 million. Wheeler County’s personal income rose by an even more substantial 8.6 percent or $3.9 million to total $49.3 million. Oregon performed well in 2015, achieving a personal income gain of $10.8 billion or 6.5 percent.
On a per capita or per person basis, Sherman County led the state in 2015. Its per capita personal income held the top spot in Oregon since 2008, a successful eight-year run in the top spot. At $57,526 per capita, Sherman County held a sizeable advantage of $13,743 over Oregon’s $43,783 per capita. Sherman County maintained its top position despite gaining just $507 per capita in 2015, an increase of just 0.9 percent. Over the decade, however, Sherman County’s per capita income rose by 113 percent or $30,521 per person. At the same time, Sherman County’s population total rose by a scant 0.1 percent. Oregon achieved a much higher rate of population growth over the decade, at 11.5 percent, while its per capita income rose by a respectable but far more demure 35 percent (+$11,362).

Gilliam County was also ranked fairly high in 2015, holding eighth position for its per capita income, which reached $43,694, nearly matching Oregon’s. Gilliam County has likewise maintained a high ranking since 2008, ranging from fourth in 2009 to 10th in 2014. 2015 was an exceptional year, producing a per capita income gain of $4,448 or 11.3 percent. Over the decade (2005-2015), Gilliam County’s per capita income rose by 75.4 percent or $18,784, while its population fell by 0.2 percent.

Although per capita incomes in Gilliam and Sherman counties have ranked at or near the top in Oregon – that hasn’t always been the case. Looking back to 2005, Gilliam County ranked 30th and Sherman County held the 25th spot.

Wheeler County’s per capita income has typically ranked near the bottom, holding 28th place in 2015 at $36,294. The bottom position (36th) in 2015 was held by Malheur County, at $30,255. Wheeler County produced a per capita income gain of 9.7 percent in 2015, rising by $3,207. Over the decade, however, Wheeler County achieved a per capita income gain of 30.7 percent with an increase of $8,532, while its population total dropped by 4.0 percent.
Personal income is comprised of three major components, the largest of which is generally net earnings by place of residence. Next, transfer receipts from government, which include Social Security benefits, medical benefits, veterans' benefits, and unemployment insurance benefits. Current transfer receipts from business include liability payments for personal injury and corporate gifts to nonprofit institutions. Last and typically least, dividends, interest, and rent consists of personal dividend income, personal interest income, and rental income of persons with capital consumption adjustment.

On a per capita basis, 2015 net earnings were highest in Sherman County, at $35,465, also well above Oregon’s $26,467. Gilliam County’s 2015 net earnings per capita were considerably lower, at $24,119. Wheeler County’s net earnings, at $12,690 weren’t much higher than its 2015 transfer receipts, which reached $9,792. Sherman County’s transfer receipts came in at $12,863, followed by Gilliam County, at $10,807. Regardless, 2015 transfer receipts per capita in each county were well above Oregon’s $8,861. Dividends, interest, and rent were the least important income source in each county, with Sherman County leading the way at $9,199 per capita. Despite representing the smallest share of personal incomes in each county, Oregon trailed all three at $8,455, just below Wheeler County’s $8,483 and Gilliam County’s $8,768.

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