New In-Migrants Account for Most of Jackson 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 Rogue Valley, 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 strong in Jackson County in 2018. The county netted 1,443 exemptions from 2017. In other words, there were 9,477 exemptions that migrated to Jackson County and 8,034 exemptions who migrated out of Jackson County, for a net migration gain of 1,443 exemptions or people. Of the 9,477 who migrated to Jackson County, 6,375 came from a different state and 3,102 came from a different county in Oregon. Among the 8,034 who migrated out of Jackson County, 4,593 left for a different state and 3,441 migrated to a different county in Oregon. According to population estimates from Portland State University’s Population Research Center, Jackson County gained 2,300 new residents between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018. This figures differ from the number of tax exemptions, because the time period of the estimate differs from the IRS tax year data, and we also have some natural population increase (births- deaths) that wouldn’t be included in the IRS net-migration data. And 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.

Our population growth is not exclusively from net migration, but natural increase (more births than deaths) is a relatively small share of our population growth.
The top net migration counties include many California, especially Southern California, counties. There were a large number that moved between Jackson and Josephine counties from 2017 to 2018. There were 974 people who moved from Josephine to Jackson County and 903 who migrated from Jackson to Josephine County, for a net migration to Jackson County of 74 people. But the California net in-migration effect is quite apparent looking at the top net in-migration counties in 2018.

Jackson County is not gaining positive net migration from every county. There was net out-migration to our other Oregon counties with a net loss of around 275 people. Other communities where we saw a net loss included Maricopa County in Arizona and Honolulu County in Hawaii, likely retirees or “snow birds” making their move to warmer climates.
We have seen faster population growth coming out of the Great Recession, but that has slowed in the past couple years as home prices have reached pre-recession peaks. Rental costs are also reaching new heights in the past couple years as vacancy rates have fallen and the supply of new housing hasn’t kept up with demand. 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 Rogue Valley, 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. As the local ski lodge has been filled to capacity during the weekends and the parking lot reaches capacity by 10:00 a.m. on the busiest days, it does beg the question: at what point do we become the victim of our success in attracting new people and residents to the Rogue Valley? Maybe the Oregon Governor Tom McCall-era billboards will be re-installed at our border crossings, “Welcome to Oregon – Come Visit, Don’t Stay.”

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