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OK, everybody, squeeze in: Oregon's population hits 4 million

PSU Population Research Center says growth is mostly new people moving here

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Traffic on Interstate 5. Portland is leading the state's population growth with nearly 12,000 new people in the last year. Preliminary July 1 population estimates from Portland State University show Oregon’s population increased by 1.3 percent over the past year to 4,013,845.

The new milestone is largely due to net migration, researchers say. Oregon has a declining fertility rate and the annual number of deaths has risen due to the aging baby boom generation. Population Research Center researchers found that about 80 percent of the growth in the past year was from people moving in.

The Portland area saw most of the biggest gains in the state. Multnomah and Washington counties added 11,700 and 10,000 residents, respectively. This means population growth rates of 1.5 percent and 1.8 percent. Clackamas County added 5,860 people for a rate of 1.5 percent. Deschutes, Marion and Lane counties all added more than 3,000 to their counts.

Oregonians are becoming increasingly urbanized as well. Researchers report that incorporated cities gained most of the new people, reaching a total population of 2.8 million. This does not include unincorporated yet highly urbanized areas such as Clackamas County’s Jennings Lodge area along Highway 99E or Washington County’s Bethany community.

Portland showed the greatest increase with nearly 12,000 more people in the past year.

Eleven cities experienced a population decrease of between five and 110 people. Fifty-eight Oregon cities reported no change in their population.

PSU’s Population Research Center creates annual population estimates for Oregon governments. Its estimates are based on a range of housing, tax and other government data.

The population estimate will be finalized by Dec. 15.

The growth rate was slightly higher this year than last year, but not quite as high as before the Great Recession. In 2006, the state added 58,000 people, which is more than the 51,000 it added this year. Assuming this year’s 1.3 percent rate of growth held steady, which is not assured, Oregon would reach a population of 5 million by the early 2030s.

Portland becoming less homogenous

A different arm of Portland State University also dove deeper into the population trends recently. The Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies put out its Greater Portland Pulse in October. The briefing covers the entire Portland region, including Clark and Skamania counties in Washington.

The institute found that the region had grown almost 50 percent in the last quarter-century to 2.3 million people. Sixty-five percent of this growth was attributed to people moving here — of which a quarter were from other countries.

They also found that the balance of the population growth has expanded outward. In the 1970s, Multnomah County held 50 percent of the population. That’s down to about one-third now, in favor of Washington, Clackamas and Clark counties.

The Greater Portland Pulse also found the population is aging as baby boomers live longer. However, the working-age and school-age population is growing more racially diverse. Children under 15 are increasingly nonwhite.

In 2014, people of color or Hispanic origin made up 25 percent of the region’s population. The population that identifies as Hispanic is the fastest-growing, having doubled in the past decade. During the same period, the Asian population grew by about 50 percent, and the African-American and Native American populations grew by 35 percent.

Incomes lag as gap widens

Per capita income, however, has not kept pace with the average in large cities across the nation.

Since 2001, Portland-area incomes have struggled to keep up with the U.S. average, according to the report. Nonwhite residents tend to earn much lower wages than white residents.

A Metro report offers more detail on income trends in the region. An analysis of the change in median family income from 2008 to 2012 showed that central Portland and pockets such as Happy Valley, Lake Oswego and West Linn are seeing more than 20 percent increases in income, whereas much of the region is seeing incomes decline by up to 51.3 percent.

TriMet used the data at a recent meeting to argue that more people will need public transportation. The transit agency says more traffic congestion is inevitable, with vehicle-hours traveled expected to rise 52 percent for cars and 94 percent for trucks by 2040.


Local city populations

above 25,000:

Portland: 613,355

Gresham: 107,065

Hillsboro: 97,480

Beaverton: 94,215

Tigard: 49,280

Lake Oswego: 37,300

Oregon City: 33,940

Tualatin: 26,590

West Linn: 25,605

Source: Preliminary 2015 population estimate from Portland State University

Shasta Kearns Moore
email: shasta@portlandtribune.com
Facebook: ShastaKearnsMoore