Oregon’s Least Populated Counties Also Tend Be Its Oldest: 2018 Population Estimates by Age and Sex

by Dallas Fridley

June 17, 2019

Population estimates by age and sex, produced by Portland State University’s Population Research Center, detail the demographic makeup of Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties in 2018. Oregon’s three smallest rural counties shared many of the same basic traits. Retirement age adults and seniors in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties represented a much larger share of their respective populations when compared with Oregon’s profile. Rural Oregon included 14 counties with one out of four residents (or more) age 65 and over. Wheeler ranked third for its share of seniors, with 32.5 percent age 65 and over, well above Oregon’s 17.6 percent. Gilliam County’s seniors ranked fifth, representing 28.6 percent of its population in 2018. Sherman County’s seniors held a 25.9 percent share, ranking 11th in Oregon.
The age zero to 17 youth population group in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties fell short of Oregon’s 20.7 percent share. Youth in Sherman County held an 18.2 percent share of its 2018 population. Gilliam and Wheeler counties lagged the state considerably, each with a youth population share of just 16.7 percent.

With fewer young people than Oregon but considerably more seniors, the working age adult population (age 18 to 64) in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties also lagged the state’s profile. Working age adults represented 55.9 percent of Sherman County’s population, compared with Oregon’s 61.7 percent. Gilliam County’s working age adults represented 54.7 percent of its 2018 population, while just over half of Wheeler County’s population (50.9%) came from the working age group.
A more detailed population by age breakout for Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties and Oregon yields essentially the same points. Adults age 55 years and older were far more prominent in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties. Together, the 55 and older group represented 47 percent of the population, well above Oregon’s 42.9 percent. Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties had a comparatively lower 6.2 percent of its population in age groups 20 through 29 compared with Oregon’s 13.1 percent. The five to nine age group was likewise underrepresented in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties, with just 3.6 percent of the population, relative to Oregon’s 5.6 percent.
Males outnumbered females in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties by a narrow margin, with 51 percent of its population male and 49 percent female. Females held an advantage of 0.7 percent statewide, representing 50.7 percent of Oregon’s 2018 population. Eleven Oregon counties, all rural, were led by males in 2018, while the remaining 25 counties trended female.

Females residing in the three counties led all age groups 65 and above. In the 85+ age group, females held a 60.5 percent share, while in the 80 to 84 age group females represented 57.7 percent. Females also held an advantage statewide in these senior age groups and with similar margins. Youth in the five to nine age group trended female for the three counties, but males countered by leading age groups 10 through 49.

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