New In-Migrants Account for Coos County’s Population Gains

by Guy Tauer

February 3, 2020

The 2017-2018 migration patterns were recently released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Migration data for the United States are based on year-to-year address changes reported on individual income tax returns filed with the IRS. They present migration patterns by state or by county for the entire United States. Figures are available for inflows – the number of new residents who moved to a State or county and where they migrated from, and outflows – the number of residents leaving a State or county and where they went. The data are available for filing years 1991 through 2018 and include:

  • Number of returns filed, which approximates the number of households that migrated.
  • Number of personal exemptions claimed, which approximates the number of individuals.
  • Total adjusted gross income, starting with filing year 1995.
  • Aggregate migration flows at the state level, by the size of adjusted gross income (AGI) and age of the primary taxpayer, starting with filing year 2011.
These migration patterns show the number of returns and exemptions (a good proxy for people) that filed their federal taxes in a different county from the previous year. Not only can this data help show the volume of migrants into or out of the South Coast, but it also reveals the county of origin for those moving here. On the other hand, we can also track where folks move to when they file their taxes with a different address than their prior year’s tax return.

Net migration was fairly strong in Coos County in 2018. The county netted 846 exemptions from 2017. In other words, there were 3,405 exemptions that migrated to Coos County and 2,559 exemptions who migrated out of Coos County, for a net migration gain of 846 exemptions or people. Of the 3,405 who migrated to Coos County, 2,171 came from a different state and 1,234 came from a different county in Oregon. Among the 2,559 who migrated out of Coos County, 1,282 left for a different state and 1,277 migrated to a different county in Oregon. Not everyone who migrated here may have filed taxes during the period the IRS collects data for that year. Late filers would be excluded from the annual IRS migration data.

According to population estimates from Portland State University’s Population Research Center, all of the county’s population increase from 2010 to 2018 was from net migration. During that time, Coos County had natural (births minus deaths) population decline of 2,235, but net migration totaled 2,467 new residents in Coos County. With the number of deaths outnumbering births, our population growth is exclusively from net migration, resulting in stable or slow population increase since 2010.
The top net migration counties include a few California counties and a number of neighboring Southwestern Oregon areas. Coos County’s largest population “trading partner” was Lane County. There were 276 exemptions or people who moved to Lane County from Coos County and going the other way, 223 who migrated from Lane County to Coos County in 2018, for a net migration loss of 53 to Lane County. The California net in-migration effect is quite apparent looking at the top net in-migration counties in 2018 – three of the top six net in-migration counties were from our neighboring state. Coos County is not gaining positive net migration from every Oregon county. There was net out-migration to other Oregon counties with a net loss of around 61 people.

As home prices have reached pre-recession peaks and rental costs are reaching new heights in the past couple years, those increased costs could be headwinds for in-migration going forward. However, it is important to remember that our population growth has been an essential component to the broader economic gains we have seen in this current expansion. New people contribute to our local labor force, create or relocate businesses in the South Coast, bring diverse perspectives, and more importantly, are looking for many of the same quality of life benefits that those of us that call this place home value.

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