Per Capita Personal Income in Baker, Malheur, and Union – 2017

by Christopher Rich

December 6, 2018

The Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes county level personal income data in November. Personal income has three main components: net earnings (wages, salaries, employer contributions); personal current transfer receipts (retirement, Medicare, unemployment insurance); and dividends, interest, and rent. A county’s total personal income is the sum of all income generated by each resident of the county. Dividing total personal income by total population produces per capita personal income (PCPI): the average income per resident regardless of age. This doesn’t actually tell us how much income the average resident receives. However, much the same as per capita GDP, per capita personal income provides a way to make economic comparisons with other areas. It can also highlight trends and changes that warrant further study.
Baker, Malheur, and Union accounted for 40 percent of Eastern Oregon’s population in 2017: roughly 73,000 people. Malheur ranked 20th, Union ranked 23rd, and Baker ranked 28th in terms of population among Oregon counties. In terms of PCPI however, Baker ranked 25th in 2017, a gain of seven spots over the county’s 2016 rank, while Union ranked 30th and Malheur ranked 36th, unchanged from 2016.

Baker County

Baker County’s PCPI reached $39,026 in 2017, a decrease of 0.3 percent from 2016 (adjusted for inflation). Less than half (43.7%) of Baker’s PCPI came from net earnings, with the second largest portion from transfer receipts (31.2%). The county ranked 32nd  in per capita net earnings in 2017, but third in growth of per capita net earnings (14.2%) from 2007 to 2017. Per capita net earnings decreased 2.1 percent for the county since 2016. Seven Oregon counties saw a drop in this component for the 10-year period while 12 saw a drop from the 2016 mark.

Baker’s per capita transfer receipts ($12,186) ranked eighth in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased by 0.6 percent since 2016. Roughly 38.0 percent of income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits, the lion’s share (96.4%) of which was from social security. Medical benefits accounted for 44.3 percent of income from transfer receipts: 54.0 percent from Medicare and 45.4 percent from public assistance medical care. Transfer receipts helped to elevate Baker’s personal income as did dividends, interest, and rent.

Baker’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($9,787) ranked 13th in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew 31.6 percent for the county from 2007 to 2017. Baker was fifth in the state for growth in this component for the period. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 2.0 percent since 2016.

Growth or loss in components of per capita income comes from several factors. Shifting age demographics play a key role for a county. While Baker County’s total population increased by 3.4 percent over the last 10 years, the 54 or younger population decreased by 8.6 percent. This translates to a loss of nearly 900 people for the age group, half of which was among the prime working-age population (25 to 54) and half of which was among those 24 or younger. The 55 and older population, on the other hand, expanded during the 10-year period. Growth for the age group was 24.9 percent and the group picked up 1,440 people, of which three out of four were 65 or older. For Baker, the number of young residents who draw less income from net earnings and dividends, interest, and rent diminished, while the number of older residents who draw more income from these two components increased. As a result, both components felt strong upward pressure and saw strong growth for the 10-year period.  

Union County

Union County’s PCPI reached $38,301 in 2017, a gain of 1.2 percent over 2016. Slightly more than half of Union’s personal income came from net earnings, with the second largest portion (29.0%) from transfer receipts. The county skirted middle-of-the-pack (23rd) in terms of per capita net earnings, which decreased by 6.5 percent from 2007 to 2017, but increased by 1.6 percent since 2016.

Union’s per capita transfer receipts ($11,124) ranked 19th in the state. Per capita transfer receipts were virtually unchanged since 2016. Nearly 36.0 percent of income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits, the majority share (88.4%) of which was social security. The largest portion of transfer receipts (45.4%) came from medical benefits: 51.8 percent from Medicare and 47.7 percent from public assistance medical care.

Union’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($7,446) ranked 27th in the state. This component grew 20.1 percent for the county from 2007 to 2017 and 2.1 percent since 2016. Union was 10th in the state for growth in per capita dividends, interest, and rent for the 10-year period: Lake County showed the most growth (52.7%), while Curry County showed the least growth (-6.7%).
Union’s total population increased by 5.7 percent from 2007 to 2017. Nearly all growth was outside the working-age population. The 17 or younger age group saw 11.9 percent growth for the period while the 65 or older age group saw 42.2 percent growth. The 18 to 24 age group fell by 20.1 percent while the 25 to 54 age group dropped by 4.2 percent. All told, the general working-age population (18 to 54) lost more than 1,000 people while the under-18 age group and the retirement age group gained more than 2,300. Eastern Oregon University helps to prop up the 18 to 24 age group, which would likely be much smaller without the university’s draw. This helps Union County maintain a 24 or younger age group that still accounts for one-third of the county’s total population. Many college students however, work only part time in low wage jobs or not at all and most of the population younger than 18 draws little or no income from earnings. The high share of young residents and the loss of working-age residents puts downward pressure on per capita net earnings. At the same time, a rapidly expanding retirement age group puts upward pressure on dividends, interest, and rent.

Malheur County

Malheur County’s PCPI reached $30,231 in 2017, a gain of 0.9 percent over 2016. Less than half (44.9%) of Malheur’s PCPI came from net earnings with the second largest portion from transfer receipts (35.9%). The county was 35th in per capita net earnings, which decreased 7.4 percent from 2007 to 2017. This was the second largest decrease in the state in terms of percentage; Jefferson County fell 17.0 percent for the largest decrease in the state. Per capita net earnings increased 1.0 percent for Malheur since 2016.

Malheur County’s per capita transfer receipts ($10,848) ranked 22nd in the state. Per capita transfer receipts were virtually unchanged since 2016. Only 27.0 percent of the county’s income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits, nearly all of this (97.5%) was from social security. Over half of the county’s transfer receipts (53.7%) came from medical benefits, with just 36.1 percent from Medicare and a much larger 63.7 percent from public assistance medical care.

Malheur’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($5,802) ranked 34th in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased 20.8 percent for the county from 2007 to 2017. Malheur was in the top 10 for growth in this component for the period; all eight Eastern Oregon counties were in the top 12 for growth. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 2.4 percent for Malheur since 2016.

Malheur County’s population grew just 2.0 percent from 2007 to 2017. The 54 or younger age group decreased by 5.1 percent while the 55 or older age group increased by 24.3 percent. This translates to a loss of 1,200 for the younger group and a gain of 1,800 for the older group. The bulk of the loss (61.5%) was in the prime working-age population, while the bulk of the gain (70.4%) was in the retirement age population. Like Union with EOU, Malheur County’s Treasure Valley Community College helps prop up the county’s 18 to 24 age group. Also like Union, Malheur’s younger population puts downward pressure on earnings as well as dividends, interest, and rent. Malheur County also feels extra downward pressure on these components. The county is home to Snake River Correctional Institution, which can house roughly 3,000 inmates. The inmate population, which amounts to roughly 10 percent of the population, likely adds little from earnings and dividends, interest, and rent, and yet is counted in the total population. As a result, a sizeable chunk of Malheur County’s low PCPI may stem from its 24 or younger and inmate populations, relative to the size of its total population.

Summation

Baker, Malheur, and Union accounted for 40 percent of Eastern Oregon’s population in 2017. All three counties ranked in the bottom third in the state in terms of PCPI. Baker and Union had similar levels of PCPI, which occurred through different income components and different age demographics. Union and Malheur each have a college that helped to prop up the younger age group, but this likely put downward pressure on per capita earnings and dividends, interest, and rent. The relative size of Malheur County’s prison population dilutes per capita components. This likely helped to hold the county near the bottom of state rankings in PCPI and per capita income components.

 


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