Per Capita Personal Income in Eastern Oregon’s 7,000 Club – 2017

by Christopher Rich

December 19, 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.
Grant, Harney, and Wallowa counties have populations of similar size. In 2017, there were between 7,000 and 7,400 residents in each of these Eastern Oregon counties. Harney ranked 31st, Grant ranked 32nd, and Wallowa ranked 33rd in terms of total population among Oregon counties. In terms of PCPI, however, Wallowa ranked 11th in 2017 and Grant ranked 24th; Harney’s PCPI rank matched its population rank of 31st.

Wallowa County

Wallowa County’s PCPI dropped to $42,926 in 2017, a decrease of 1.5 percent over 2016 (adjusted for inflation). Less than half (43.1%) of Wallowa’s PCPI came from net earnings, with the second largest portion from transfer receipts (29.3%). The county ranked 27th in per capita net earnings, which increased by 7.4 percent from 2007 to 2017. Per capita net earnings decreased 3.2 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.

Wallowa’s per capita transfer receipts ($12,598) ranked seventh in the state. Per capita transfer receipts decreased by 0.9 percent since 2016. A hefty portion (41.3%) of Wallowa’s income from transfer receipts took the form of retirement and disability insurance benefits, nearly all of which was from social security (97.4%). The largest portion (45.4%) of transfer receipts came from medical benefits: 65.2 percent from Medicare and 34.2 percent from public assistance medical care.

Wallowa’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($11,848) ranked third in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew 29.4 percent for the county from 2007 to 2017. Wallowa was sixth in the state for growth in this component for the period. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 0.7 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 Wallowa’s total population increased 1.8 percent from 2007 to 2017, the 54 or younger population decreased by 13.1 percent. This translates to a loss of roughly 580 people for the age group, 68.2 percent of which was among the prime working-age population (25 to 54) and 27.6 percent of which was among the 18 to 24 age group. The 55 or older population, on the other hand, expanded during the 10-year period. Growth for the age group was 27.1 percent and the group picked up 710 people, of which nearly nine out of 10 were 65 or older. Counties with a heavy share of older residents are likely to see a larger portion of income drawn from retirement benefits and assets such as stocks, investment accounts, and real estate. For Wallowa, the number of young residents who draw less income from dividends, interest, and rent diminished, while the number of older residents who draw more income from this component increased. As a result, per capita dividends, interest, and rent felt strong upward pressure and saw strong growth for the 10-year period.
Grant County

Grant County’s PCPI dropped to $39,797 in 2017, a decrease of 1.3 percent over 2016. Less than half (46.4%) of Grant’s personal income came from net earnings, with the second largest portion (29.7%) from transfer receipts. The county ranked 29th in terms of per capita net earnings in 2017, but eighth for growth in per capita net earnings (8.8%) from 2007 to 2017. Per capita net earnings decreased by 5.1 percent for the county since 2016.

Grant County’s per capita transfer receipts ($11,823) ranked 10th in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased 1.8 percent since 2016. Roughly 40.0 percent of income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits; 97.3 percent of this was from social security. The largest portion of transfer receipts (43.9%) came from medical benefits: 61.3 percent from Medicare and 38.3 percent from public assistance medical care.

Grant’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($9,518) ranked 16th in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew 19.3 percent from 2007 to 2017. Grant County was 12th 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 2.8 percent for Grant since 2016.

Grant’s total population decreased by 1.5 percent from 2007 to 2017. All loss was seen in the 54 or younger portion of the population, which decreased by 20.6 percent or nearly 1,000 people. The 17 or younger age group fell by 23.8 percent; the 18 to 24 age group fell by 28.5 percent; and the 25 to 54 age group fell by 17.3 percent. Meanwhile, the 55 or older population increased by 30.0 percent. This age group gained 850 people, of which roughly nine out of 10 were 65 or older. Grant residents age 55 or older represented half of the county’s population in 2017 and those at or above retirement age represented nearly one-third of the population. Like Wallowa, per capita dividends, interest, and rent for Grant County felt strong upward pressure and saw strong growth for the 10-year period.

Harney County

Harney County’s PCPI dropped to $38,177 in 2017, a decrease of 0.8 percent over 2016. Less than half (48.4%) of Harney’s PCPI came from net earnings, with the second largest portion from transfer receipts (29.7%). The county was 28th in per capita net earnings, but ninth in growth for per capita net earnings (8.6%) from 2007 to 2017. Per capita net earnings decreased by 3.9 percent since 2016.

Harney County’s per capita transfer receipts ($11,327) ranked 16th in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased 1.8 percent since 2016. For Harney, a smaller portion of income from transfer receipts (36.6%) was seen in retirement and disability insurance benefits, although a comparable 97.0 percent of this was from social security. The largest portion of transfer receipts (45.7%) came from medical benefits: 58.1 percent from Medicare and 41.5 percent from public assistance medical care.

Harney’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($8,390) ranked 20th in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew 33.3 percent from 2007 to 2017. Harney County was fourth for growth in this component for the period. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 2.9 percent for Harney since 2016.

Harney’s total population decreased by 1.2 percent from 2007 to 2017. The 54 or younger population decreased by 14.5 percent while the 55 or older population increased by 27.8 percent. This translates to a loss of 740 for the younger age group and a gain of 650 for the older age group. More than one-third of the loss was among the 17 or younger crowd and more than half of the loss was among the prime working-age population. At the same time, three-fourths of the gain was among the retirement age population. The county’s residents age 55 or older accounted for 40.5 percent of the population in 2017; residents 65 or older accounted for 24.1 percent of the population. As with Wallowa and Grant, Harney also felt strong upward pressure on per capita dividends, interest, and rent and saw strong growth in the component for the 10-year period.

Summation

Grant, Harney, and Wallowa have similar size populations, but different levels of PCPI. The three counties draw nearly the same percentage of income from transfer receipts. Harney, which has the largest 18 to 54 population, draws the highest percentage of income from net earnings. Wallowa, which has the smallest 18 to 54 population, draws the least from net earnings. All three counties have seen large growth in dividends, interest, and rent in line with shifts in age demographics. Grant has the largest 65 or older population among the three counties while Harney has the smallest. It’s Wallowa, though, that draws the highest percentage of income from dividends, interest, and rent.


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