Migration and Income in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

October 17, 2017

Santa Clara County (San Jose), California topped the list of origins for the highest-income migrants that came to Northwest Oregon in 2014 to 2015. Santa Clara County migrants to Benton County had an average adjusted gross income of $104,952 in 2015, but there weren’t very many of them. Only 21 tax returns were filed showing migrants from Santa Clara County to Benton County, so they weren’t numerous enough to be published in the accompanying table. Clatsop County also attracted high income migrants from Multnomah County over that year. The average adjusted gross income per return for migrants from Multnomah County to Clatsop County was $83,161.
The first table shows the three source counties with the most migrants moving to each county in Northwest Oregon. For example, the data from the Internal Revenue Service show that 363 returns, which could represent joint or individual tax filers, had address changes showing that people moved from Linn County to Benton County between tax filing in 2014 (usually for 2013 income) and filing in 2015 (usually for 2014 income). These Linn-to-Benton migrants had an average adjusted income of $45,127 per return.

Not surprisingly, most migrants come from adjacent counties and nearby metropolitan areas. Migrants filed 7 percent of all tax returns in Benton, Clatsop, and Lincoln counties; 6 percent of tax returns in Tillamook County; and 5 percent of returns in Columbia County. In all five counties the average adjusted income per return for migrants was lower than the average adjusted income for non-migrants.

Benton County had the largest number of exemptions claimed on migrants’ tax returns. There were 3,444 total moving into Benton County from 2015 filings. Clatsop County migrants claimed 1,704 exemptions, Columbia migrants claimed 1,800 exemptions, Lincoln County migrants claimed 2,039 exemptions, and Tillamook County migrants claimed 1,013 exemptions.

Of course people move out of Northwest Oregon as well as move in. Data on people leaving counties in Northwest Oregon is in the second table. As with in-migration, out-migration is mostly directed to nearby counties.
Does migration help or hurt the local economy? The IRS data suggest that in net, migration may add to the region’s income. The migrants who moved into the counties had adjusted gross income that was $23 million higher than the migrants who moved out. This was true even though in migrants in every county had average adjusted incomes that were lower than the average for residents who remained in their counties both years. It may be that people in Northwest Oregon are moving to take higher-paying jobs, so moving itself is a way to improve economic efficiency by getting people to more productive positions.


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