Per Capita Personal Income in Baker, Malheur, and Union – 2018

by Christopher Rich

February 24, 2020

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) or the average income per resident regardless of age. This doesn’t actually tell us how much income the average resident receives. However, similar to 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 counties accounted for 40 percent of Eastern Oregon’s population in 2018 or 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 26th in 2018, Union ranked 27th, and Malheur ranked 36th.

Baker County

Baker County’s PCPI reached $40,699 in 2018, an increase of 4.0 percent over 2017 (adjusted for inflation). Less than half (43.2%) of Baker’s PCPI came from net earnings, with the second largest portion from transfer receipts (31.1%). The county ranked 32nd in per capita net earnings in 2018, but fourth in growth of per capita net earnings (+22.4%) from 2008 to 2018. Per capita net earnings increased 3.2 percent for the county since 2017. All but five Oregon counties saw an increase in net earnings over the 10-year period; all but four saw an increase since 2017.

Baker’s per capita transfer receipts ($12,640) ranked ninth in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased by 3.6 percent since 2017. Just over 38.0 percent of income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits, the lion’s share (96.2%) of which was from social security. Medical benefits accounted for 44.6 percent of income from transfer receipts: 51.4 percent from Medicare and 48.1 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 ($10,485) ranked 13th in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew 25.4 percent for the county from 2008 to 2018. Baker was 10th in the state for growth in this component for the period. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 5.7 percent since 2017.

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 1.9 percent over the last 10 years, the 54 or younger population decreased by 7.8 percent. This translates to a loss of nearly 800 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 or older population, on the other hand, expanded during the 10-year period. Growth for the age group was 22.9 percent and the group picked up 1,373 people, of which four out of five 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 upward pressure and saw relatively strong growth for the 10-year period. 

Union County

Union County’s PCPI reached $40,547 in 2018, a gain of 3.8 percent over 2017. Just over half of Union’s personal income came from net earnings, with the second largest portion (28.5%) from transfer receipts. The county was in the lower middle-of-the-pack (21st) in terms of per capita net earnings, which increased by 3.3 percent from 2008 to 2018, but increased by 4.3 percent since 2017.

Union’s per capita transfer receipts ($11,546) ranked 18th in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased 2.3 percent since 2017. Less than 36.0 percent of income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits, the majority share (88.5%) of which was social security. The largest portion of transfer receipts (45.9%) came from medical benefits: half from Medicare and half from public assistance medical care.

Union’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($8,346) ranked 26th in the state. This component grew 24.9 percent for the county from 2008 to 2018 and 4.5 percent since 2017. Union was 11th in the state for growth in per capita dividends, interest, and rent for the 10-year period: Lake County showed the most growth (+46.1%), while Douglas County showed the least growth (+5.5%).
Union’s total population increased by 6.0 percent from 2008 to 2018. Nearly all growth was outside the working-age population. The 17 or younger age group saw 4.6 percent growth while the 65 or older age group saw 39.2 percent growth; these two groups added 1,873 individuals. The 55 to 64 age group also added a small portion: 92 people for a gain of 2.6 percent. Meanwhile the 18 to 24 age group fell by 13.6 percent and the 25 to 54 age group dropped by 2.9 percent. These two groups lost a combined 663 individuals. While Eastern Oregon University helps to prop up the 18 to 24 age group, the group still saw considerable shrinkage for the 10-year period. This is likely tied to declining enrollments at the university since 2013. Even with the large drop in 18 to 24 year olds, Union County still holds a 24 or younger population that accounts for nearly one-third of the county’s total population. Many college students 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 prime 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 increased to $30,992 in 2018, a gain of 2.7 percent over 2017. Less than half (43.7%) of Malheur’s PCPI came from net earnings with the second largest portion from transfer receipts (36.4%). The county was 35th in per capita net earnings, which was virtually unchanged from 2008 to 2018. Per capita net earnings increased 1.9 percent for Malheur since 2017.

Malheur County’s per capita transfer receipts ($11,272) ranked 22nd in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased 3.3 percent since 2017. Less than 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 (54.6%) came from medical benefits, with just 33.7 percent from Medicare and a much larger 66.0 percent from public assistance medical care.

Malheur’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($6,188) ranked 34th in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased 21.5 percent for the county from 2008 to 2018. Malheur was 18th for growth in this component for the period; all eight Eastern Oregon counties were in the top half of counties for growth. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 3.3 percent for Malheur since 2017.

Malheur County’s population grew just 0.8 percent from 2008 to 2018. The 54 or younger age group decreased by 4.2 percent while the 55 or older age group increased by 21.4 percent. This translates to a loss of 989 for the younger group and a gain of 1,685 for the older group. Nearly 60.0 percent of the loss was in the 17 or younger age group with the remaining portion split between the 18 to 24 age group and the 25 to 54 age group. The prime working-age population, which accounts for roughly 37 percent of the county’s population, slipped by 1.7 percent. The bulk of gains (71.9%) for the county occurred 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 more than 9.0 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.

The Sum of Things

Baker, Malheur, and Union accounted for 40 percent of Eastern Oregon’s population in 2018. All three counties ranked in the bottom third among Oregon counties 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 helps to prop up the younger age group, but this likely puts downward pressure on per capita earnings and dividends, interest, and rent. The relative size of Malheur County’s prison population dilutes per capita components such as earnings and dividends, interest, and rent. This likely helped to hold the county near the bottom of state rankings in PCPI and these per capita income components.

 


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