Per Capita Personal Income in Eastern Oregon’s 7,000 Club – 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.
Grant, Harney, and Wallowa counties have populations of similar size. In 2019, there were between 7,100 and 7,400 residents in each of the three Eastern Oregon counties. Harney ranked 31st, Wallowa ranked 32nd, and Grant ranked 33rd in terms of total population among Oregon counties. In terms of PCPI, however, Wallowa ranked 15th in 2019 while Grant ranked 26th and Harney ranked 31st.

Wallowa County

Wallowa County’s PCPI rose to $46,044 in 2019, an increase of 2.5% over the previous year; adjusting for inflation brings the gain to 0.6%. Less than half (42.0%) of Wallowa’s PCPI came from net earnings. Transfer receipts (31.2%) was the second largest portion, but not too far ahead of dividends, interest, and rent (26.8%). The county ranked 31st in the state for per capita net earnings and 28th for growth in per capita net earnings from 2009 to 2019. Per capita net earnings increased 1.9% for the county since 2018, but was virtually unchanged after adjusting for inflation (+0.1%). All Oregon counties saw an increase in net earnings over the 10-year period and all but two saw an increase since 2018.

Wallowa’s per capita transfer receipts ($14,380) ranked fifth in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased by 5.5% since 2018. Retirement and disability insurance benefits accounted for 37.9% of Wallowa’s income from transfer receipts. Nearly all of this was from social security (97.6%). The largest portion (45.1%) of transfer receipts came from medical benefits: 66.4% from Medicare and 33.1% from public assistance medical care. Veterans’ benefits accounted for 7.8% of total transfer receipts and income maintenance benefits accounted for 4.8%.

Wallowa’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($12,334) ranked seventh in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew by 44.8% for the county from 2009 to 2019. Wallowa was 22nd in the state for growth in this component for the period. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent was unchanged 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 Wallowa’s total population increased by 1.8% from 2009 to 2019, the 18 to 64 year old population decreased by 13.6%. This translates to a loss of roughly 555 people for the age group, 58.7% of which was among the prime working-age population (25 to 54). The 65 or older population, on the other hand, expanded during the 10-year period. Growth for the age group was 39.7% and the group picked up 637 people. 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 upward pressure and saw continued growth for the 10-year period.
Grant County

Grant County’s PCPI rose to $42,888 in 2019, an increase of 2.8% over the previous year; adjusting for inflation brings the gain to 1.0%. Less than half (45.7%) of Grant’s personal income came from net earnings, with the second largest portion (30.7%) from transfer receipts. The county ranked 30th in terms of per capita net earnings in 2019, but 15th for growth in per capita net earnings from 2009 to 2019. Per capita net earnings increased by 2.8% for the county since 2018, or 0.9% adjusted for inflation.

Grant County’s per capita transfer receipts ($13,168) ranked 11th in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased 3.8% since 2018. A large portion (37.7%) of income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits; 97.8% of this was from social security. The largest portion of transfer receipts (44.7%) came from medical benefits: 61.1% from Medicare and 38.6% from public assistance medical care. Veterans’ benefits accounted for 6.6% of total transfer receipts and income maintenance benefits accounted for 5.8%.

Grant’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($10,128) ranked 17th in the state. This component grew 46.8% from 2009 to 2019. Grant County was also 17th 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 1.6% for Grant since 2018.

Grant’s total population decreased by 1.3% from 2009 to 2019. Nearly all loss was seen in the 54 or younger portion of the population, which decreased by 20.5% or 903 people. The 17 or younger age group fell by 26.7%, the 18 to 24 age group fell by 22.9%, and the 25 to 54 age group fell by 16.5%. Meanwhile, the 55 to 64 population was virtually unchanged at 1,313, and the 65 and older population jumped by 47.4%, gaining 819 people. Grant residents age 55 or older represented over half of the county’s population in 2019 and those at or above retirement age represented over one-third of the population. Like Wallowa, per capita dividends, interest, and rent for Grant County felt upward pressure and saw continued growth for the 10-year period.

Harney County

Harney County’s PCPI rose to $41,818 in 2019, an increase of 3.5% from the previous year; adjusting for inflation brings the gain to 1.7%. Half (50.4%) of Harney’s PCPI came from net earnings with the second largest portion from transfer receipts (29.6%). The county was 24th in per capita net earnings, but second in growth for per capita net earnings from 2009 to 2019. Per capita net earnings increased by 3.1% for Harney since 2018, or 1.3% when adjusted for inflation.

Harney County’s per capita transfer receipts ($12,388) ranked 17th in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased by 5.1% since 2018. For Harney, a smaller portion of income from transfer receipts (34.4%) was seen in retirement and disability insurance benefits, although a comparable 97.2% of this was from social security. The largest portion of transfer receipts (46.2%) came from medical benefits: 57.1% from Medicare and 42.6% from public assistance medical care. Veterans’ benefits accounted for 7.3% of total transfer receipts and income maintenance benefits accounted for 7.2%.

Harney’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($8,370) ranked 23rd in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew by 36.2% from 2009 to 2019. Harney County was 31st for growth in this component for the period. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent increased by 2.2% for Harney since 2018.

Harney’s total population decreased by 0.9% from 2009 to 2019. The 54 or younger population decreased by 14.0% while the 55 or older population increased by 24.5%. This translates to a loss of 686 for the younger age group and a gain of 617 for the older age group. Almost half of the loss was among the prime working-age population and 38.2% of the loss was among the 17 or younger crowd. At the same time, 84.7% of the gain was among the retirement age population. The county’s residents age 55 or older accounted for 42.6% of the population in 2019; residents 65 or older accounted for one-fourth of the population. As with Wallowa and Grant, Harney also felt upward pressure on per capita dividends, interest, and rent and saw continued growth in the component for the 10-year period.

The Sum of Things

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 continued 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. However, Wallowa draws the highest percentage of income from dividends, interest, and rent.

 


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