New In-Migrants Continue to Drive Deschutes County’s Population Gains

by Damon Runberg

January 16, 2020

The 2017-2018 migration patterns were recently released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 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 Central Oregon, but it also reveals the county of origin for those moving here.

Net migration was very high in Deschutes County in 2018. The county netted 4,090 exemptions from 2017. In other words, roughly 4,100 more people moved to Deschutes County compared with those who left. Based on these migration figures population growth due to migration into Deschutes County in 2018 was around 2.8 percent. This tracks closely with the Portland State University population estimates where total population grew by roughly 3.3 percent in 2018. 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 total volume of net migrants was roughly 67 percent higher in 2018 than it had been a few years earlier in 2015 (+2,450 exemptions). This translated into a faster rate of population growth due to positive net migration. Back in 2015, net migration resulted in an increase of roughly 1.8 percent from the year prior (compared with 2.8 percent in 2018).
The top net migration counties included Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties in the Portland metro area with a combined 910 net migrants in 2018. King County (the Seattle metro area) followed the Portland area with roughly 295 net migrants. The fifth largest net migration was from Los Angeles County in Southern California (+250). Although only one California county ranked in the top five for net migration into Deschutes County, California accounted for 11 of the top 20 counties for net migration. In-migration from Southern California accelerated over the past several years, overtaking the Bay Area/ Northern California as the largest draw from our neighbor to the south.

Deschutes County is not gaining positive net migration from every county. There was net out-migration to our Central Oregon neighbors with a net loss of around 250 people to Crook County and 140 to Jefferson County. This was likely a reflection of the slower pace of life and small town feel in our neighboring communities and possibly a reflection of more affordable housing prices. We also saw a net loss to Lake and Klamath counties to our south. Other communities where we saw a net loss included a handful of counties in Arizona, likely retirees or “snow birds” making their Arizona home their primary residence. Finally, we saw a net loss to many of the medium-sized metro areas in the intermountain west including Boise and Spokane.
The fast rates of population growth from the positive net migration we have seen over the past decade can be overwhelming. It stresses infrastructure, creates a significant demand for housing, and results in dramatic changes to the communities we live in. 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 become critical contributors to our local labor force, create or relocate businesses in Central Oregon, 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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