Posted by: Josh Lehner | December 8, 2017

Oregon’s Population Outlook

When the latest population estimates for Oregon came out the other week (see our summary here), I promised you an update on our office’s forecast when it was available. Since then, Kanhaiya, the state demographer in our office, has updated the population forecast and we did discuss it a bit with the Legislature at our latest forecast release as well. The upshot of the new outlook is our forecast for Oregon’s population has been raised. We are expecting a larger population and slightly stronger population growth rates over the next decade than we previously assumed.

Now, it can be hard to tell that the outlook is a bit stronger today if you just look at our standard population forecast chart shown above. That’s because the general nature of the outlook remains unchanged. Oregon is growing, and net migration is driving the growth. What has changed relative to our previous outlook is the composition of this growth moving forward. Oregon is expected to be even more reliant upon migration than we previously thought. Births continue to come in lower than expected, and deaths are rising a bit faster than expected. So the overall increase in the population forecast is entirely due to stronger migration trends. Now, again, this general flavor of an outlook has been what our office has expected for quite some time. As the population ages, we will see more deaths, and births have been disappointing for some time. However, in recent years these trends have been a bit more pronounced than expected. Our forecast has been revised accordingly.

In fact the sharper decline in the natural increase (births minus deaths) is now leading our outlook to suggest that by 2029 the number of deaths in Oregon will actually outnumber births. This date has been pulled forward relative to previous forecasts due to the population numbers in recent years and expectations about their future trends.

What this means, is that migration is no longer just one of the primary drivers and the lifeblood of Oregon’s economy — and our office’s long-term outlook — but it is also a risk to the outlook. The reason it is a risk is that migration is an increasing share of our population growth. In a decade it will be the entire source. This growth does wonderful things for our economy on net, in particular it brings in young, skilled, working-age households. There are growing pains too, but overall it is a clear boon for Oregon. However, if this growth, or these expected migrants don’t come to Oregon in the future — for whatever reason, be it a poor economy, lack of affordability or something else — then our office’s long-term outlook will be revised lower. It would mean a smaller and slower growing economy, everything else equal. It would mean fewer sales for businesses, it would mean fewer workers, lower tax revenues and the like. So while migration is overall beneficial and a major driver of our office’s long-term outlook, it is also the likely linchpin. As such, that makes migration a risk to the outlook as well.

Finally, Kanhaiya’s been looking into births a bit more in depth and I want to revisit the issue in the near future. The fact that births are not increasing much has a number of implications and also a number of drivers. There are also a few national studies/reports discussing this issue that I’d like to tie back to the Oreogn data as well.


  1. […] Source: Oregon’s Population Outlook […]

  2. […] of the bigger picture things our office has done, including the significance of affordability for Oregon’s long-run economic growth, the fact that affordability truly is a statewide challenge, the main housing supply constraints […]

  3. […] of the bigger picture things our office has done, including the significance of affordability for Oregon’s long-run economic growth, the fact that affordability truly is a statewide challenge, the main housing supply […]

  4. Those net migration forecasts for the years 2021 through 2026 seem pretty aggressive at about 43,000 per year.

    Looking at the four years surrounding the 2001 recession, and the six or so years that include and follow the 2008 recession, the average was closer to 20,000 per year. So, a quick comparison with history suggests to me that Oregon’s average annual net migration for the years 2021 through 2026 are likely to be closer to 20,000 to 30,000–assuming that those years won’t be characterized by strong economic expansion like Oregon’s economy experienced during 2014 through 2017.

    • Thanks David. If you’re suggesting that the pattern will look different in the future because of a future recession, we’re in complete agreement. When a recession hits, our baseline forecasts will adjust accordingly. Until that time — be it 1, 2, 5 years down the line — our baseline forecasts for everything assume no recession.

  5. […] affordability — our longer-run forecasts would be revised lower. Given the fact that the natural increase of population will turn negative in a decade, we are even more reliant upon migration than in decades past. For now, the expectation […]

  6. […] Population: natural increase [Slide 6] […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: