Southwestern Oregon’s Population Growth, 2000-2018

by Annette Shelton-Tiderman

January 2, 2019

Every year, Portland State University’s Population Research Center releases its annual population estimates. Year after year, the incremental changes add up. It is only when one steps back and takes a longer-range look that trends show up. Generally, Coos, Curry, and Douglas counties are seeing slower population growth than that of the state. From 2000 to 2010, a period that saw two recessions, Oregon’s population grew 12 percent. From 2010 to 2018, the state entered a sustained period of economic recovery and associated population growth (9.5%). Overall, from 2000 to 2018, the state grew 22.6 percent. Southwestern Oregon grew 4.8 percent during 2000 to 2010; 2.5 percent from 2010 to 2018; and 7.4 percent overall during the 18-year period.

Coos County’s population growth from 2000 through 2010 was 0.4 percent, which continued during the subsequent years summing to 0.8 percent for 2000 through 2018. Those involved in city and community planning tend to focus on the longer-term, as rapid population expansion foretells increased demands on local infrastructure. Although the county’s growth rate has been minimal, adding less than 500 people in 18 years, the small, coastal community of Lakeside has grown 26.5 percent since 2000! The addition of approximately 360 people may not appear to be substantial. However, there was a corresponding increase in housing units of nearly 440. The need for additional water, sewer, and other utility services can be very demanding for such a small community.

Curry County has experienced 8.4 percent population growth over the last 18 years. In the years leading up to the trough of the Great Recession, the county added nearly 1,230 people for a 5.8 percent growth rate. The ensuing years of slow recovery saw a sharp reduction in population change – 550 additional people for a 2.5 percent growth rate. Brookings and Gold Beach saw the greatest 18-year population growth, 21.7 percent and 19.4 percent, respectively. Brookings added over 600 housing units, and Gold Beach added nearly 390 units. These population shifts and housing unit increases have placed growing demands on local infrastructure.

Douglas County leads the region in population increases – both in numbers and rates. This large county, bisected by Interstate 5, added 7,260 people during the first decade of 2000 (7.2% growth). The effects of the recession and slow recovery affected the population growth, which grew less than 4 percent and added just over 4,000 people from 2010 to 2018. Some communities saw growth in the early years; some experienced growth in recent years. However, Elkton saw population growth throughout the entire period. This small community of barely 200 people grew more than 30 percent from 2000 to 2010 and added another 10 percent in the subsequent years. Another expanding town is southern Douglas County’s Canyonville. Unique for a rural area, Canyonville’s median age declined from 46.5 years in 2010 to 40.4 years in 2017. Its 18-year growth rate approaches 49 percent, the highest overall rate in the county. Canyonville not only added more than 600 people, it also added over 330 housing units.

Conclusion

As rural Oregon experiences rebounding economic opportunities, the population of its small towns has increased at varying rates. Coos County’s population remains virtually unchanged. Curry County saw more growth in the early years of this period, and it has experienced slower growth during the economic recovery. Douglas County exhibits a similar pattern of early growth with slowing during the recession followed by recovery.

 


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