Population Growth and Trends in Northwest OregonJune 1, 2022
Natural population growth remained negative in Northwest Oregon as all five counties record more deaths than births.
Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties combined to record 781 more deaths than births from July 2020 through June 2021. The chart shows the natural increase (births minus deaths) in the combined population of Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook counties. The natural increase underwent a long-term decline in the region throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s. Although the number of births has exceeded the number of deaths for most years, the region is on a new trend that reverses that with deaths outnumbering births since 2017.
The decrease in natural population change in 2021 was a further drop from the previous year and a continuation of the trend of ever-larger natural decline. For the first time all five counties – Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook had more deaths than births. This is the first time since 1982 that Benton County has had more deaths than births. Additionally, all five counties experienced their largest natural decreases since at least 1982.
Benton County is usually the outlier in northwest Oregon. It has the largest percentage of people ages 18 to 64 and thousands of college students, and it is the only complete metro area in the region. The county had 780 births and a record 797 deaths from July 2020 through June 2021 for a net natural decrease of 17 people. Benton County also had 1,191 people move out of the county over the year – also a record. It is likely that much of the out migration was related to the pandemic restrictions at Oregon State University.
Columbia County is the second largest county in Northwest Oregon and has a population age distribution that is fairly similar to the state’s distribution. The county had 609 births and 685 deaths from July 2020 through June 2021 for a net natural decrease of 76. The natural population change in Columbia County fluctuates between an increase and a decrease from year to year, usually due to swings in the number of births in the county. During this period, however, there was a large increase in the number of deaths.
Lincoln County had a natural population loss of 426 from July 2020 through June 2021. Natural population loss is traditionally the case for both Lincoln County, which is notable for its older-aged population. About 31% of Lincoln County’s population is 65 or older, and it has the oldest population of the five counties in northwest Oregon. Lincoln County had 462 births and 888 deaths over the year. The number of births in Lincoln County was the highest since 2011, but the county also had its highest number of deaths since at least 1982.
Clatsop County had a natural decrease of 108 over the year to July 2021. The county’s population is older than in Benton and Columbia counties. In the past 10 years the county has fluctuated between small natural increases and decreases in population, but this year marked the largest natural decrease since at least 1982. Clatsop County had 460 births and 568 deaths over the 12 months.
Tillamook County had a net natural decrease of 154 people – its largest drop since at least 1982. Tillamook County has the smallest population of the five counties in Northwest Oregon. Twenty-eight percent of the county’s population is age 65 or older, and the county has had a net natural decrease in population in most years since 1987. Tillamook County had 311 births and 465 deaths from July 2020 through June 2021.
Births increased in every county in Northwest Oregon over the year through June 2021, and they increased statewide as well, but deaths increased much more in the region and statewide. Deaths increased so much that Oregon recorded its first net natural decrease in population in recent times. This trend was apparent nationally also; the Census Bureau reported that a record 73% of U.S. counties experienced a natural decrease in population in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic was described as one cause.