Per Capita Personal Income in Oregon’s Counties

by Felicia Bechtoldt

December 16, 2020

In 2019, Oregon had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $53,191. Oregon’s PCPI ranked 25th in the U.S. and was 94% of the national average of $56,490, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In Oregon, the 2019 PCPI increased by 4.2% from 2018, slightly faster than the nationwide PCPI growth rate of 3.9%.

Personal income is the sum of three main components: net earnings (wages, salaries, employer contributions); personal current transfer receipts (retirement, Medicare, unemployment insurance); and income from dividends, interest, and rent. PCPI is calculated by dividing the area’s personal income by its total population.

Per Capita Personal Income in Oregon’s Counties

Per capita personal income varies between states and counties and by metro and nonmetro areas. In general, PCPI is higher in the Portland and Bend area and along the Columbia Gorge. Washington County had the highest PCPI in 2019 at $64,043.
The three major components of per capita personal income – net earnings; transfer receipts; dividends, interest, and rent – make up different portions of counties’ PCPI. In general, counties with higher PCPI have a higher percentage of PCPI attributable to net earnings. Per capita net earnings made up 67% of PCPI in Washington County and 65% in Multnomah County. In Wheeler County, per capita net earnings made up just 35% of PCPI.

Areas with a higher concentration of older residents tend to have lower PCPI. The reason an older population tends to have lower PCPI is that as people leave the labor force, they have often passed their peak earning years, and therefore have less contribution to the net earnings component of PCPI. Remember PCPI represents income, rather than wealth. Older residents may have substantial wealth but do not have as much relative income, unless it was income-generating investments that would show up in the “dividends, interest, and rent” portion of PCPI.

Income from transfer receipts is generally higher in counties with lower PCPI. These transfer receipts are primarily government social benefits, such as Social Security (retirement), Medicare (health insurance program for people age 65 or older), Medicaid, and unemployment insurance. The initial impulse is to presume that folks in some counties rely more heavily on government subsidies; however, the story behind the higher transfer receipts is one of age demographics.

In rural Oregon, the share of the population that is age 65 and older increased from 18% in 2010 to 24% percent in 2019. The retirement age population grew by 40% between 2010 and 2019, while the working age population and youth population declined by 2% and 5%, respectively. A higher share of retirees means a higher share of transfer receipts. The share of per capita income from transfer receipts was higher in Wheeler (39%), Curry (36%), Jefferson (35%), and Malheur (35%) counties. The lowest share of per capita transfer receipts was in Washington (12%) and Clackamas (13%) counties.
Income from dividends, interest, and rent was highest in Deschutes ($14,705), Hood River ($14,371), and Washington ($13,773) counties. It was lowest in Morrow ($5,943) and Jefferson ($6,013) counties.

Metro and Nonmetro

Metro areas across Oregon tend to have higher per capita personal income than nonmetro areas. In 2019, nonmetro areas ($43,531) in Oregon had PCPI that was just 79% of the metro figure ($55,051). In the U.S., PCPI of nonmetro areas amounted to 73% of the metro PCPI.

Comparing metro Oregon with other metro areas across the nation, however, we see that Oregon’s metro PCPI lags the nation and has for a long while. In fact, Oregon’s metro areas had a PCPI that was 90% of the national metro-area PCPI in 2009 and 94% in 2019.

On the nonmetro side, Oregon’s PCPI kept pace with the national average for nonmetros. PCPI in Oregon’s nonmetro areas was 98% of U.S. nonmetro in 2009 and 101% in 2019.
As shown in the table, net earnings make up the highest share of PCPI for all areas. However, net earnings make up a higher share of PCPI for metros than nonmetros, while transfers make up a higher share for nonmetros than metros.

More information is available in the article “Oregon’s Per Capita Personal Income 2019.


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