Per Capita Personal Income in Eastern Oregon’s 7,000 Club – 2020

by Christopher Rich

May 4, 2022

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 2020, 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 13th in 2020 while Grant ranked 22nd and Harney ranked 25th.

Wallowa County

Wallowa County’s PCPI rose to $50,303 in 2020, an increase of 10.7% over the previous year; adjusting for inflation brings the gain to 9.4%. Less than half (44.0%) of Wallowa’s PCPI came from net earnings. Transfer receipts (34.5%) was the second largest portion, with the remainder from dividends, interest, and rent (21.5%). The county ranked 25th in the state for per capita net earnings, but ranked 11th for growth in per capita net earnings from 2010 to 2020. Per capita net earnings increased 10.9% for the county since 2019, or 9.5% after adjusting for inflation. All Oregon counties saw an increase in net earnings over the 10-year period and all but three saw an increase since 2019.

Wallowa’s per capita transfer receipts ($17,334) ranked sixth in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased by 19.8% since 2019. Retirement and disability insurance benefits accounted for 33.1% of Wallowa’s income from transfer receipts. Nearly all of this was from social security (97.8%). The largest portion (40.4%) of transfer receipts came from medical benefits: 64.9% from Medicare and 34.6% from public assistance medical care. Veterans’ benefits accounted for 6.8% of total transfer receipts and income maintenance benefits accounted for 4.6%. Unemployment insurance benefits, which accounted for just 1.2% of transfer receipts in 2018 and 1.3% in 2019, jumped to 5.0% in 2020 during the pandemic.

Wallowa’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($10,822) ranked seventh in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew by 43.8% for the county from 2010 to 2020. Wallowa was 10th in the state for growth in this component for the period. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent decreased by 1.6% since 2019.

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 2.2% from 2010 to 2020, the 18 to 64 year old population decreased by 14.7%. This translates to a loss of roughly 600 people for the age group, 72.8% 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 41.3% and the group picked up 672 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 working-age residents continues to decrease while the number of retirement-age residents continues to increase, shifting income away from net earnings and toward retirement benefits and assets.
< Grant County

Grant County’s PCPI rose to $47,569 in 2020, an increase of 11.7% over the previous year; adjusting for inflation brings the gain to 10.3%. Less than half (44.3%) of Grant’s personal income came from net earnings, with the second largest portion (35.9%) from transfer receipts. The county ranked 29th in terms of per capita net earnings in 2020, but 18th for growth in per capita net earnings from 2010 to 2020. Per capita net earnings increased by 7.0% for the county since 2019, or 5.7% adjusted for inflation.

Grant County’s per capita transfer receipts ($17,082) ranked seventh in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased 28.5% since 2019. A large portion (30.5%) of income from transfer receipts was in retirement and disability insurance benefits; 98.0% of this was from social security. The largest portion of transfer receipts (37.2%) came from medical benefits: 59.4% from Medicare and 40.3% from public assistance medical care. Veterans’ benefits accounted for 6.4% of total transfer receipts and income maintenance benefits accounted for 5.2%. Unemployment insurance benefits, which accounted for just 1.7% of transfer receipts in 2018 and 2.0% in 2019, jumped to 6.2% in 2020 during the pandemic.

Grant’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($9,429) ranked 11th in the state. This component grew 39.1% from 2010 to 2020. Grant County was 15th for growth in per capita dividends, interest, and rent for the 10-year period. Washington County showed the most growth (+103.4%), while Jefferson County showed the least growth (+21.6%). Per capita dividends, interest, and rent decreased by 2.0% for Grant since 2019.

Grant’s total population decreased by 1.7% from 2010 to 2020. Nearly all loss was seen in the 54 or younger portion of the population, which decreased by 21.8% or 944 people. The 17 or younger age group fell by 28.5% (-408), the 18 to 24 age group fell by 22.5% (-93), and the 25 to 54 age group fell by 17.8% (-443). The 55 to 64 population also decreased, slipping by 39, while the 65 and older population jumped by 48.5%, gaining 853 people. Grant residents age 55 or older represented over half of the county’s population in 2020 and those at or above retirement age represented roughly 36% of the population. Like Wallowa, income continues to shift away from net earnings and toward retirement benefits and assets.

Harney County

Harney County’s PCPI rose to $47,009 in 2020, an increase of 15.3% from the previous year; adjusting for inflation brings the gain to 13.9%. Just over half (51.6%) of Harney’s PCPI came from net earnings with the second largest portion from transfer receipts (33.7%). The county was 20th in per capita net earnings, but second in growth for per capita net earnings from 2010 to 2020. Per capita net earnings increased by 13.7% for Harney since 2019, or 12.3% when adjusted for inflation.

Harney County’s per capita transfer receipts ($15,820) ranked 15th in the state. Per capita transfer receipts increased by 27.1% since 2019. For Harney, a smaller portion of income from transfer receipts (28.3%) was seen in retirement and disability insurance benefits, although a comparable 97.5% of this was from social security. The largest portion of transfer receipts (39.2%) came from medical benefits: 55.4% from Medicare and 44.3% from public assistance medical care. Veterans’ benefits accounted for 6.2% of total transfer receipts and income maintenance benefits accounted for 6.5%. Unemployment insurance benefits, which accounted for just 1.3% of transfer receipts in 2018 and in 2019, jumped to 4.2% in 2020 during the pandemic.

Harney’s per capita dividends, interest, and rent ($6,942) ranked 29th in the state. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent grew by 26.5% from 2010 to 2020. Harney County was 33rd for growth in this component for the period. Per capita dividends, interest, and rent decreased by 1.0% for Harney since 2019.

Harney’s total population decreased by 1.9% from 2010 to 2020. The 54 or younger population decreased by 13.1% while the 55 or older population increased by 19.1%. This translates to a loss of 634 for the younger age group and a gain of 492 for the older age group. Roughly 45.0% of the loss was among the prime working-age population with another 42.6% among the 17 or younger crowd. The 18 to 24 age population decreased by 16.7% (-83) and the county’s residents age 55 to 64 also decreased, sliding by 2.5%. This puts all of the county’s population gain in the retirement-age group, which grew by 37.2% (+522) for the period. Residents age 65 or older accounted for just over one-fourth of Harney’s population in 2020 while those 55 or older accounted for 42.2%. As with Wallowa and Grant, Harney continues to see downward pressure on net earnings while seeing upward pressure on retirement benefits and dividends, interest, and rent.

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 share of population age 18 to 54, draws the highest percentage of income from net earnings. Wallowa, which has the smallest share of population age 18 to 54, 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 share of population age 65 or older 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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