Oregon’s 2017 Natural Population Increase Was the Lowest on Record

by Felicia Bechtoldt

May 2, 2018

In 2017, Oregon’s population increased by 64,750 to 4,141,100. This marked growth of 1.6 percent over the year, and growth of 8.1 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 reasons that lead to population change. First, an area increases in population if more births than deaths occur in a given year or vice versa. Second, 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.

In 2017, natural increase contributed 7,900 to population growth, which was the lowest since comparable records began in 1960. The low natural increase is caused by an increase of the number of deaths (36,800), which was the highest since 1960. Since 2011, Oregon had a relatively low natural increase relative to the prior four decades.
Oregon Continues to Attract Migrants

A lot of Oregon’s population increase in 2017 was due to net migration, which at 56,800 people was the largest net migration since 1991.

Over the past 20 years, Oregon had an average net migration of 27,800 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.

Metro Areas Gain Most from Net Migration

From 2010 to 2017, Oregon’s net migration gain was 228,400, which made up about three-quarters of the population gain. The net migration gain in metro areas of the state was 201,600, which accounted for 88 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.
While metro areas in Oregon grew 9.0 percent between 2010 and 2017, rural areas grew only 3.9 percent. In some cases, counties saw a decline in population. Declines can occur due to losses through both natural decrease and net migration, or one of the two factors outweighing the other.

Two counties in Oregon lost population between 2010 and 2017: Harney (-0.8%) and Grant (-0.4%). 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 2017. In addition to the two counties that lost population, Josephine, Douglas, Coos, Curry, Lincoln, Tillamook, Crook, Baker, Wallowa, Lake, Wheeler, Wasco, Gilliam, and Sherman counties had more deaths than births between 2010 and 2017. These 16 counties that experienced a natural decrease in population were home to 17 percent of Oregon’s 65-and-over population in 2017. But, these counties only made up 11 percent of Oregon’s entire population. The average share of the population 65 and over in these 16 counties was 27 percent compared with the 17 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 4.1 million, the OEA expects Oregon’s population to be more than 4.6 million in 2026. Between 2016 and 2026, Oregon’s population is expected to increase by 552,550, out of which 88 percent will be attributed to net migration.

As Oregon’s population continues to grow, 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 and 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 2017 and prior years for Oregon and its counties, visit www.pdx.edu/prc/population-reports-estimates.


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