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The planned 'baby bounce' hasn't happened yet, demographers say

Migration, not births, cause of Oregon's population growth.

        Oregon’s population is growing but not because women are having babies. In fact, the stork has yet to deliver the state’s expected “baby bounce” recovery from the Great Recession, say demographers.

According to Oregon Health Authority records, births peaked in Oregon in 2007-08 but then dropped to a decade low in 2012 thanks to the recession. Last year, total Oregon births increased to 46,092, still 7 percent below the high mark of in 2007-08. Birth rates in Multnomah and Washington counties reflect the same downward statewide trend.

Oregon’s declining birth rate, which has some forecasters worried, is coming in under the radar as the state’s population continues to grow thanks to in-migration.

In the latest report from demographers at Portland State University, Oregon saw its total population move over the 4 million mark for the first time last year. Net in-migration, not new babies, accounted for 80 percent of the (51,135) increase.

Oregon’s “replacement fertility rate” of 1.8 per woman (over a lifetime) means not enough babies are born each year to replace those who die at the other end of the age spectrum, said Kanhaiya Vaidya, senior demographer with the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.

“But we are compensated by in-migration,” Vaidya said. “Oregon is a great place to live, the economy is doing well and baby boomers are retiring, which means more jobs for younger workers.”

Women must give birth to an average of 2.1 babies over a lifetime for the population to remain stable. The U.S. average birth rate at 1.8 per women is also below replacement levels.

The declining fertility rate in Oregon, as well as nationally, has implications for the general economy in terms of household formation, home buying trends and related consumer spending. Fewer babies also may have a longer-term impact on labor force availability, school classroom planning, funding of social programs and tax revenue projections.

Demographers have been tracking declining fertility rates for some time.


Population: 4,013,845.

2014-15 increase: 51,135.

In-migration: Account3d for 80 percent of population gain.

Native born residents: Only 51 percent were born in Oregon.

Fertility rate: 1.8 per woman.

Oregon births

2015 – 46,092

2014 – 45,557

2013 – 45,136

2012 – 45,059

2011 – 45,136

2010 – 45,596

2009 - 47,188

2008 – 49,117

2007 – 49,373

2006 – 48,684

SOURCE: Portland State University, Population Research Center, Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, Oregon Health Authority

Globally, declining birth rates in industrialized nations and lengthening life spans are affecting durable goods purchases such as cars and the need for services — health care for an aging population, for instance. Germany’s birth rate has dropped to the lowest in the world, followed by Japan.

Bill Conerly, Portland economist and Forbes magazine contributor, is convinced that the millennial generation — those born roughly between 1980 and 2000 — may still produce off-spring at a higher rate sometime in the future.

“If we look at age-adjusted fertility rates, more women are delaying childbearing into their 30s,” Conerly said. “This shift is important because it says a lot about future housing demand. When couples start pushing around baby strollers, they may opt for a house in the suburbs rather than in the urban core. A whole lot of spending adjustments occur when people have kids,” he said. “For instance, there may be trade-offs between buying diapers versus buying a new iPhone.”

Work force growth

Among rich countries, the U.S. remains demographically fortunate in that its working-age population still should grow into the mid-century, reports Greg Ip in a recent Wall Street Journal article. However, that growth will occur at a slower pace. That means the nation’s labor force will shrink as a share of total population from 66 percent to 60 percent. That could put a drag on growth, he said.

Meanwhile, net in-migration has either boosted population growth around the state or has prevented population losses in certain counties where deaths have out-numbered births, said Risa Proehl, Population Estimates Program Manager at PSU, Without in-migration, as many as half of Oregon’s counties would be seeing “natural” population declines because of more deaths than births, she said.

The state’s growing Latino population also is a factor.

“We might have seen a bigger drop in Oregon’s fertility rate over the past several years if it had not been partially off-set by Latinos, a group with higher birth rates,” Proehl said.

Washington County births

2015 – 6,515

2014 – 6,522

2013 – 6,746

2012 – 6,751

2011 – 6,772

2010 – 6,970

2009 – 7,595

2008 – 7,689

2007 – 7,883

2006 – 7,808

The state’s population mix also is being affected by the aging baby boomer generation — those born soon after World War II. This year, the vanguard of baby boomers born in 1946 are reaching their 70th birthdays.

“This is a big wave pushing through the life cycle,” Proehl observed. “Seniors have smaller households because children are gone and now a spouse may have died.”

Proehl said the deepest part of the recession also affected birth rates.

“People tend to move around less when the economy is bad, which means that the number of women moving to Oregon who potentially would have given birth was smaller than in previous years,” she said.

However, even though Oregon’s economy has been on the upswing for several years, the number of babies born here is still lower than pre-recession.

Proehl also sees the ongoing shift in when women have their first babies, a trend that has been under way since the early 1990s. And as women become more educated and attain a higher standard of living, the fertility rate drops even more. Oregon’s college towns, for instance, have lower fertility rates than the state average, she said.

But in-migration is making all the difference.

Last year, Multnomah and Washington counties added 11,700 and 10,000 new residents, respectively. The city of Portland gained 12,000 new residents with the cities of Hillsboro, Salem, Eugene, Grants Pass and Bend each adding over 1,000 people.

So far Proehl and others see no real sign that Oregon’s birth rate is changing.

“Without in-migration, the population will continue to decline,” she said.

Multnomah County births

2015 – 10,911

2014 – 10,938

2013 – 10,730

2012 – 10,566

2011 – 10,508

2010 – 10,453

2009 – 10,895

2008 – 11,027

2007 – 10,277

2006 – 10,258