The Ins and Outs of Population Change in Eastern Oregon – 2016 Update

by Christopher Rich

May 3, 2017

There are two components of population change; natural increase and net migration. Natural increase is the number of births in an area minus the number of deaths. Net migration is the number of people who moved into an area minus the number of people who moved out. Both of these components varied widely across Eastern Oregon counties from 2010 to 2016, resulting in stark differences in population change.

Grant County saw the smallest overall population change for the period (-0.5%) and was one of only two counties in the state, along with Harney, to experience a drop in population since 2010. Umatilla’s population saw the largest change within the eight-county region growing 5.3 percent (+3,991 people): 1.1 percentage points behind the state growth rate of 6.4 percent.
For Baker, Grant, Harney, and Wallowa deaths outpaced births from 2010 to 2016. The largest difference between births and deaths came in Wallowa County at 1.4 deaths per birth for the period. Harney County had the smallest difference at 1.1 deaths per birth. Deaths outpaced births primarily due to the large and growing share of residents 65 years or older and the small share of 18 to 34 year olds in each of the four counties. Residents 65 years or older represented 16.8 percent of the state’s population in 2016. This age group represented a much larger share of the population in Grant (31.1%), Wallowa (28.7%), Baker (26.1%), and Harney (23.5%). The 18 to 34 age group accounted for 22.6 percent of the state’s population in 2016. In Wallowa, Grant, Baker, and Harney this age group accounted for a much lower percentage of the population: 12.9 percent, 13.1 percent, 14.8 percent, and 16.5 percent, respectively.

For Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, and Union births outpaced deaths from 2010 to 2016. The largest difference between births and deaths came in Morrow County at 2.1 births per death. Union County had the smallest difference at 1.2 births per death. Births outpaced deaths primarily due to the large share of 18 to 34 year olds, as well as the small share of residents 65 years or older in each of the four counties. In 2016, the 18 to 34 age group was more in line with the state average in Umatilla (22.2%), Malheur (22.1%), Union (20.9%), and Morrow (19.5%). The 65 or older age group was also more in line with the state average. Umatilla and Morrow were below the state at 14.8 percent and 15.8 percent for the age group. Malheur was just above the state average at 17.4 percent. Union was furthest removed from the state average among the four counties. Union’s 65 or older group accounted for 20.3 percent of the county’s population in 2016.

Only two counties in Eastern Oregon experienced negative net migration from 2010 to 2016. Malheur County saw 442 more people choose to move out of, rather than into, the county. Harney County saw 69 more people choose to exit rather than enter. For Harney County, negative net migration combined with negative natural increase for an overall population loss of 102 people since 2010. For Malheur County, positive natural increase outweighed negative net migration for an overall population gain of 392 people since 2010.


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