Per Capita Personal Income in Eastern Oregon’s 7,000 Club – 2016 Update

by Christopher Rich

December 5, 2017

The Bureau of Economic Analysis – a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce – publishes county level personal income data in November. Personal income is derived from 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 personal income generated by each resident of the county. By dividing a county's total personal income by its total population, we obtain per capita personal income (PCPI): the average of total income per resident regardless of age. This doesn’t actually tell us how much income the average resident receives each year. However, much the same as per capita GDP, per capita personal income provides a way to make comparisons with the state and with other counties. It can also help to highlight trends and changes that we may want to examine a little more closely.
Grant, Harney, and Wallowa are three Eastern Oregon counties that have populations of similar size. In 2016, there were roughly 7,000 residents in each of these counties. Grant ranked 31st, Harney 32nd, and Wallowa 33rd in the state in terms of total population. When ranked according to PCPI, however, Wallowa was in the top third, Grant was in the middle, and Harney was in the bottom third.
Wallowa County

Wallowa ranked eighth in Oregon for PCPI ($43,593) in 2016. The county was in the middle of the pack (20th) in terms of per capita net earnings, but personal income saw a boost from transfer receipts and dividends, interest, and rent. More than half (54%)  percent of Wallowa’s personal income came from the combination of these two sources, which is not surprising. Counties with a heavy share of older residents are likely to see a large portion of income drawn from retirement benefits and assets such as stocks, investment accounts, and real estate. Almost half (46%) of Wallowa’s population was 55 or older in 2016 and 29 percent of the population was 65 or older. In comparison, Wheeler County had the highest portion of PCPI drawn from these two sources (61%) while Washington County had the lowest (32%). Wheeler was second in terms of portion of the population 55 or older, while Washington tied Multnomah for lowest portion.  
Wallowa’s per capita transfer receipts ($12,360) ranked seventh in the state, in line with counties of similar age demographics such as Curry, Wheeler, and Baker. Roughly 40 percent of Wallowa’s income from transfer receipts took the form of retirement and disability insurance benefits, the wolf’s share (97%) of which was from social security. Another hefty portion of transfer receipts (44%) came from medical benefits: just under two-thirds of this was from Medicare and one-third from public assistance medical care.

Wallowa’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($11,282) ranked third in the state just below Hood River County and Deschutes, and just above Benton, Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah. The county’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew an inflation adjusted 26 percent from 2000 to 2016, which produced the sixth highest growth rate in the state. Hood River and Washington had the first and second highest growth rates for the period. Growth among all counties ranged from -11 percent to 47 percent. Meanwhile, Wallowa’s population decreased slightly more than 1 percent from 2000 to 2016. Growth in per capita dividends, interest, and rent came from several factors including this slight overall population loss and the attraction of retirees and semi-retirees to the county over the last 16 years. While Wallowa’s population decreased by 86 residents for the period, a major shift in age demographics took place. From 2000 to 2016, net migration, along with natural aging, decreased Wallowa’s 54 or younger population by 1,130 and increased the 55 or older population by 1,049. The cities of Wallowa and Lostine saw a combined loss of 112 residents during this time and the cities of Enterprise and Joseph saw a combined increase of 136. The population was shrinking, young residents who drew less income from dividends, interest, and rent were leaving, and older residents who drew more income from this component were moving in.

Grant County

Grant ranked 21st in Oregon for PCPI ($38,888) in 2016. The county was in the bottom third (26th) in per capita net earnings. Like Wallowa, transfer receipts and dividends, interest, and rent elevated Grant’s personal income, although not as much. Almost half  (52%) of the county’s PCPI came from these two sources in 2016. Grant residents age 55 or older represented 49 percent of the county’s population in 2016 and those 65 or older represented 31 percent. Curry County had the highest share of residents 55 or older (52%) with Wheeler a close second (49%).

Grant County’s per capita transfer receipts ($11,354) ranked 14th in the state as did per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($8,836). A breakdown of transfer receipts shows the county had much in common with Wallowa. Roughly 40 percent of income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits; 97 percent of this was from social security. Forty-four percent of transfer receipts came from medical benefits: 60 percent from Medicare and 40 percent from public assistance medical care.

Grant’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew 17 percent from 2000 to 2016 (adjusted for inflation), which produced the ninth highest growth rate in the state. Grant County’s age demographics also shifted dramatically over the last 16 years. The 54 or younger population decreased by 1,834 and the 55 or older population increased by 1,322. Unlike Wallowa’s population, Grant’s population decreased by a much larger 525 from 2000 to 2016, a loss of roughly 7 percent. The vast majority (93%) of population loss came from 2000 to 2010 with losses seen in John Day, Long Creek, Monument, Prairie City, and unincorporated parts of the county. The larger decrease and the wider gap between young residents who were lost and older residents who were gained likely contributed to the difference in growth rates between Grant and Wallowa.

Harney County

Harney ranked 26th in Oregon for PCPI ($37,685) in 2016. The county was in the middle third (21st) and just below Wallowa in per capita net earnings. Transfer receipts and dividends, interest, and rent accounted for nearly half of per capita personal income (49%) for Harney, which is in line with counties of similar age demographics such as Douglas, Coos, and Tillamook. The county’s residents age 55 or older represented 40 percent of the county’s population in 2016 and those 65 or older represented 24 percent.

Harney County’s per capita transfer receipts ($10,774) ranked 19th in the state. A breakdown of transfer receipts reveals small differences from both Grant and Wallowa that are in line with differences in their age demographics. A smaller portion of income from transfer receipts (36%) was seen in retirement and disability insurance benefits; still, 97 percent of this was from social security. A slightly higher portion of transfer receipts (46%) came from medical benefits, but a smaller share of this came from Medicare (56%) and a larger share came from public assistance medical care (43%).

Harney’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($7,544) ranked 22nd in the state, just below Coos and Crook and two spots above Josephine; three counties of similar age demographics. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew just under 26 percent for the county from 2000 to 2016 (adjusted for inflation). Harney’s growth rate was seventh in the state. Like Grant and Wallowa, Harney also saw a huge shift in age from 2000 to 2016. The county lost 1,240 residents 54 or younger and gained 955 residents 55 or older. Harney saw its population decrease by 289 overall for the period. For Harney County, the shift in demographics and the loss in population came somewhere in the middle of what Grant and Wallowa experienced. The decrease was smaller and so was the gap between the younger age group lost and the older age group gained. Harney experienced an increase in per capita dividends, interest, and rent that was on par with Wallowa.   

Summation

Grant, Harney, and Wallowa have similar size populations, but different levels of PCPI. The three counties draw roughly the same percentage of income from transfer receipts. Grant, with the oldest population among the three, draws the highest percentage of income from transfer receipts while Harney draws the least. Harney, with the youngest population of the three, draws the highest percentage of income from net earnings while Wallowa draws the least. All three counties have seen large growth in dividends, interest, and rent in line with shifts in age demographics. Wallowa draws the highest percentage of income from dividends, interest, and rent, which is likely an indicator that the county attracts a more affluent retirement population.


Our Latest Articles Our Latest Articles

Latest Items