Per Capita Personal Income in Baker, Malheur, and Union – 2019

by Christopher Rich

November 16, 2021

The Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes county level personal income data. 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 counties accounted for roughly 40% of Eastern Oregon’s population in 2019: roughly 73,500 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 28th, Union ranked 32nd, and Malheur ranked 36th.

Baker County

Baker County’s PCPI reached $42,494 in 2019, an increase of 2.6% over the previous year; adjusting for inflation brings the gain to 0.8%. Less than half (44.6%) of Baker’s PCPI came from net earnings, with the second largest portion from transfer receipts (31.3%). The county ranked 32nd in per capita net earnings in 2019, but 12th in growth of per capita net earnings from 2009 to 2019. Per capita net earnings increased by 2.4% since 2018, or 0.6% adjusted for inflation. All Oregon counties saw an increase in net earnings over the 10-year period and all but two saw an increase since 2018.

Baker’s per capita transfer receipts ($13,317) ranked 10th in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased by 3.9% since 2018. Just under 38% of income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits, the lion’s share (96.6%) of which was from social security. Medical benefits accounted for 43.3% of income from transfer receipts: 51.2% from Medicare and 48.4% from public assistance medical care. Veterans’ benefits accounted for 7.8% of total transfer receipts and income maintenance benefits accounted for 7.3%. Transfer receipts helped to elevate Baker’s personal income as did dividends, interest, and rent.

Baker’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($10,209) ranked 15th in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew by 50% for the county from 2009 to 2019. Baker was also 15th in the state for growth in this component for the period. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 1.3% since 2018.

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 4.1% over the last 10 years, the 54 or younger population decreased by 7.3%. This translates to a loss of 730 people for the age group, 43% of which was among the prime working-age population (25 to 54) and 57% 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 22.7% and the group picked up 1,400 people, of which nearly nine out of 10 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 $41,721 in 2019, a gain of 2.1% since 2018; adjusting for inflation brings the gain to 0.3%. Just over half of Union’s personal income came from net earnings, with the second largest portion (29.7%) from transfer receipts. The county was in the bottom middle-of-the-pack (23rd) in terms of per capita net earnings in 2019, and 31st for growth in net earnings from 2009 to 2019. Per capita net earnings was virtually unchanged from 2018 for the county, but decreased by 1.9% when adjusted for inflation.

Union’s per capita transfer receipts ($12,406) ranked 16th in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased by 6.7% since 2018. Just over one-third (34.4%) of income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits, the majority share (89%) of which was social security. The largest portion of transfer receipts (45.7%) came from medical benefits: 52.1% from Medicare and 47.5% from public assistance medical care. Veterans’ benefits accounted for 6.4% of total transfer receipts and income maintenance benefits accounted for 6.8%.

Union’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($8,148) ranked 27th in the state. This component grew 45.6% for the county from 2009 to 2019. Union was 19th in the state for growth in per capita dividends, interest, and rent for the 10-year period. Washington County showed the most growth (+85.3%), while Jefferson County showed the least growth (+25.9%). Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 1.2% for Union since 2018.
Union’s total population increased by 4.4% from 2009 to 2019. All growth was outside the working-age population. The 17 or younger age group saw 3.0% growth while the 65 or older age group saw 38.9% growth; these two groups added 1,824 individuals. Meanwhile the 18 to 24 age group dropped by 8.3% and the 25 to 54 age group dropped by 3.9%. These two groups lost a combined 594 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 2012. 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 $34,576 in 2019, a gain of 5.0% over 2018; adjusting for inflation brings the gain to 3.1%. Just under half (47.8%) of Malheur’s PCPI came from net earnings with the second largest portion from transfer receipts (34.6%). The county was 35th in per capita net earnings, but sixth in growth for net earnings from 2009 to 2019. Per capita net earnings increased by 5.6% for Malheur since 2018, or 3.7% when adjusted for inflation.

Malheur County’s per capita transfer receipts ($11,947) ranked 22nd in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased by 5.2% since 2018. Just over one-fourth (26.7%) of the county’s income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits, nearly all of this (97.8%) was from social security. Over half of the county’s transfer receipts (54.8%) came from medical benefits, with just 35.0% from Medicare and a much larger 64.8% from public assistance medical care. Veterans’ benefits accounted for 3.1% of total transfer receipts and income maintenance benefits accounted for 10.3%.

Malheur’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($6,102) ranked 34th in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 35.3% for the county from 2009 to 2019. Malheur was 32nd for growth in this component for the period. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 3.0% for Malheur since 2018.

Malheur County’s population grew 2.6% from 2009 to 2019. The 54 or younger age group decreased by 3.8% while the 55 or older age group increased by 21.0%. This translates to a loss of 890 for the younger group and a gain of 1,698 for the older group. Nearly 67% of the loss was in the 17 or younger age group with the remaining portion split, 15.2% for the 18 to 24 age group and 18.2% among the 25 to 54 age group. The prime working-age population, which accounts for roughly 37% of the county’s population, slipped by 1.4%. The bulk of population gain (77.4%) for the county 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 more than 9.0% of the population, likely adds little from earnings and from 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% of Eastern Oregon’s population in 2019. 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 as well as 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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