Net Migration Fuels Population Growth in the Columbia Gorge, 2010-2015

Net Migration Fuels Population Growth in the Columbia Gorge, 2010-2015

by Dallas Fridley

April 28, 2016

Hood River, Deschutes, Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas were the fastest growing counties in Oregon from 2010 to 2015. Hood River County's 8.5 percent population gain led the state, lifting its 2015 total to 24,245, an increase of 1,899 residents. Deschutes County, also known as the Bend-Redmond MSA, finished a close second, rising by 8.2 percent to total 170,740. Washington (+7.7%), Multnomah (+5.7%), and Clackamas counties (+5.7%) ranked third through fifth and are three of the seven counties that make up Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro MSA.

Despite its rural status, Hood River County came out on top from 2010 to 2015. Oregon's population rose by 182,771 or 4.8 percent to 4,013,845 with net migration representing 65 percent of its total gain. Net migration was a strong suit for Hood River County – it ranked second to Deschutes County for its rate of migration per 1,000 residents. For every 1,000 Oregon residents in 2010, the state welcomed 31.2 over the next five years, leading to a gain of 119,598 residents. Deschutes County's rate per 1,000 residents, at 69.4, was more than double the state's pace, while Hood River County's 60.1 per 1,000 also impressed.

It may come as a surprise that Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties didn't rank among Oregon's top five (net-migration per 1,000 residents). Gilliam County ranked third, welcoming 54.4 new residents per 1,000 from 2010 to 2015. Net migration to Gilliam County represented 100 percent of its total gain, with births minus deaths at a standstill. Wasco County ranked fourth at 47.8 net-migrants per 1,000 for a gain of 1,205 residents. And in Wasco County's case net-migration kept it from slipping into negative territory, with deaths outnumbering births from 2010 to 2015. Curry County's net-migration, at 46.9 residents per 1,000, ranked fifth.

Births minus deaths can produce a negative or positive rate of natural population increase, reflecting, in part, age demographics, and racial and ethnic diversity, along with family size. The highest rate of natural increase in Oregon was produced by Washington County, at 40.3 per 1,000 residents from 2010 to 2015. That rate compares with a much, much lower 16.5 per 1,000 for the state. Keep in mind that 14 of Oregon's 36 counties produced a negative rate of natural increase from 2010 to 2015.

Curry County landed at the bottom, with a natural population loss of 42.2 per 1,000 while Wheeler County ranked 35th, with a loss of 40 per 1,000. Wheeler County's death rate was Oregon's second highest, at 76.4 per 1,000 from 2010 to 2015, while its birth rate was the lowest, at just 36.4 per 1,000 residents or 51 births and 107 deaths. Curry County ranked first for its death rate, at 44.2 per 1,000, while its birth rate ranked 34th at 44.4 per 1,000 residents.

Hood River County ranked sixth for its rate of natural increase, at 25 per 1,000. Its death rate ranked near the bottom, in 32nd position with 42.1 per 1,000, while its birth rate ranked eighth, at 67.1. Gilliam County's natural increase ranked 22nd from 2010 to 2015, with a slower birth rate (53.1 per 1,000) and a higher death rate (52.9 per 1,000) than Oregon. Sherman County's rate of natural increase landed in 21st position, posting results quite similar to Gilliam County with a death rate of 48.9 per 1,000 and a birth rate of 49.4 per 1,000. Wasco County's birth rate of 62.5 per 1,000 finished just ahead of Oregon's, earning an 11th place ranking. But the death rate in Wasco County, at 64.4 per 1,000 ranked in eighth position – producing a natural population loss of 1.9 residents per 1,000, while is rate of natural increase ranked 24th.

As a region, the five counties that make up the Columbia Gorge welcomed 52 net migrants per 1,000 residents, well above Oregon's 31.2 per 1,000. Birth rates differed very little, with a rate of 63 per 1,000 for the Columbia Gorge compared with 62.3 for the state. But with a death rate of 54.3 per 1,000, the Columbia Gorge had a lower rate of natural increase than the state, at 8.7 per 1,000 compared with Oregon's 16.5.

Rural Oregon did, nonetheless, have two counties ranked in Oregon's top five. Morrow County's rate of natural increase ranked second behind Washington County, while Umatilla County finished third. Umatilla County actually produced the state's highest birth rate from 2010 to 2015, at 77.5 per 1,000, well above Oregon's 62.3 per 1,000, while its death rate ranked 30th, at 43.5 per 1,000. Morrow County produced similar rates, with births ranking third, at 74.9 per 1,000, while its death rate ranked 34th or third from the bottom at 36.8 per 1,000.