Oregon’s 2016 Net Migration Was the Highest Since 1993

by Felicia Bechtoldt

June 2, 2017

In 2016, Oregon’s population increased by 62,500 to 4,076,400. This marked growth of 1.6 percent over the year, and growth of 6.4 percent since the 2010 Census. Portland State University’s Population Research Center recently released more detailed information on why this population growth has occurred.

There are two main causes of population change. First, population can increase or decrease through net migration. That is, over the year, people either move into or out of an area. A positive value of net migration means more people moving into an area than leaving it, while a negative value of net migration indicates more people leaving an area than moving in. Second, an area increases in population if more births than deaths occur in a given year and decreases if births are outnumbered by deaths.

Oregon Continues to Attract Migrants

In 2016, a lot of Oregon’s population increase was due to net migration, which at 52,100 people was the largest net migration since 1993.

Over the past 20 years, Oregon had an average net migration of 27,100 people per year. The lowest number of net migrants over the last 20 years was 7,000 in 2010. In general, we see net migrants increase as the economy expands and more jobs become available. Notice that prior to the Great Recession, net migration was booming in Oregon. As the recession hit, people became less mobile. This, combined with Oregon experiencing a deeper recession than the nation as a whole, brought net migration to its lowest levels since the 1980s.
Natural increases contributed 10,400 to population growth in 2016, which was slightly higher than the previous year, when the natural increase was 10,300. Over the last two years, Oregon had a relatively low natural increase compared with the last three decades. The last time Oregon had a similar natural increase was in 1973, when the natural increase was 10,500.

Metro Areas Gain Most from Net Migration

From 2010 to 2016, Oregon’s net migration gain was 171,900, which made up about 70 percent of the population gain. The net migration gain in metro areas of the state was 160,500, which accounted for 93 percent of total net migration gains in the state. Since 90 percent of Oregonians live in a metro area, this gain suggests the share of Oregonians living in metro areas is increasing slightly.
While metro areas in Oregon grew 6.9 percent between 2010 and 2016, rural areas grew only 3.0 percent. In some cases, counties saw a decline in population. Declines can occur due to losses in both natural growth and net migration, or one of the two factors outweighing the other.

Two counties in Oregon lost population between 2010 and 2016: Harney (-1.4%) and Grant (-0.5%). Both counties experienced a natural decrease in population. Harney County also experienced a decrease in population due to negative net migration.

Sixteen counties in Oregon had a natural decrease in population between 2010 and 2016. In addition to the two counties that lost population, Baker, Coos, Crook, Curry, Douglas, Gilliam, Josephine, Lake, Lincoln, Sherman, Tillamook, Wallowa, Wasco, and Wheeler counties had more deaths than births between 2010 and 2016. These 16 counties that experienced a natural decrease in population were home to 17.1 percent of Oregon’s 65-and-over population in 2016. But, these counties only made up 11.1 percent of Oregon’s entire population. In addition, the average share of the population 65 and over in these 16 counties was 26.6 percent compared with the 16.8 percent share for the state as a whole. The disproportionate share of people 65 and over in the 16 counties was a major factor in their natural population decrease.
Growth Expected in the Future

Oregon’s Office of Economic Analysis (OEA) forecasts population for the state. While Oregon’s population is slightly more than 4 million, the OEA expects its population to be nearly 4.6 million by 2026. Between 2016 and 2026, Oregon’s population is expected to increase by 515,500, out of which 83.0 percent will be attributed to net migration.

As Oregon’s population continues to increase, we see that the majority of this increase comes from positive gains in net migration. These gains are focused mostly in metro areas and in the northern half of the state. While gains from natural increase and net migration are the norm for 19 counties across the state, the rest of the state has experienced a decline in one or both of these components.

Population Estimates by Age and Sex

The Population Research Center at Portland State University prepares annual population estimates for Oregon, its counties by age and sex, and incorporated cities and towns as of July 1 each year. These estimates serve as the official population numbers between each decennial Census, and are used to disburse state revenues to Oregon counties and cities.

To explore and use population estimates data for 2016 and prior years for Oregon and its counties, visit www.pdx.edu/prc/population-reports-estimates.

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