Eastern Oregon by Race and Ethnicity – 2016

by Christopher Rich

October 10, 2017

Data used in this article are from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau follows guidelines for race and ethnicity classifications set forth by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Under these guidelines, race and ethnicity are two separate and distinct concepts. The Census Bureau collects data on race and ethnicity by conducting surveys in which respondents self-identify. A person can choose to identify with one or more of the following racial groups: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. A person can also choose to identify their ethnicity in one of two ways: either Hispanic or Latino, or Not Hispanic or Latino. This means, for example, that someone can identify as being Hispanic and White, or Not Hispanic and White, or Hispanic and Black and Asian, or some other combination.
Eastern Oregon’s Hispanic population accounted for 20.4 percent of the region’s total population in 2016, significantly higher than the state’s overall Hispanic population (12.8%). The majority of residents in the east side of the state who identified themselves as Hispanic ethnicity, however, were clustered in only three counties. In Morrow County, 36.3 percent of residents identified with Hispanic heritage; Malheur County had a slightly smaller representation at 33.1 percent. Umatilla County had the smallest percentage among this group of three (26.4%), but the county was home to the largest number of Hispanic residents at 20,167.

Hispanic representation drops dramatically when we look at the remaining five counties in Eastern Oregon. Harney had the largest share by percentage in the group with 5.2 percent of residents claiming Hispanic heritage and Wallowa had the smallest share with 2.8 percent. Union County (4.7%) was home to the largest number of Hispanic residents among the group at 1,216.

Self-identified racial groupings reveal that Eastern Oregon was predominantly white in 2016, as was the state overall. In Eastern Oregon, 92.0 percent of residents identified as white, while 87.4 percent of Oregon residents identified as white. This didn’t change much among the individual counties. Umatilla was at the low end with 90.6 percent of residents identifying their race as white. Wallowa was at the high end with 95.8 percent of residents identifying as white.
The state overall had a much larger Asian population than did the region. Oregon’s Asian community represented 4.5 percent of the state’s population in 2016 while Eastern Oregon’s Asian community accounted for only 1.1 percent of the region’s population.
Umatilla County, which is home to the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, had 4.4 percent of the population (3,362 people) identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native; the largest share in Eastern Oregon. Harney County, which is home to the Burns Paiute Tribe, had 3.9 percent of the population (282 people) identify as this racial group. Wallowa County had the smallest share with 0.8 percent of the population. Wallowa County was once home to the Nez Perce and lies southwest of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation in Idaho.


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