Posted by: Josh Lehner | May 21, 2019

Oregon Births and Deaths, Part 1

Oregon’s ability to attract and retain working-age households is the key driver of our stronger economic growth compared to most other states. The influx of new residents provide young, skilled labor for Oregon firms looking to hire and expand. These new residents also increase demand for housing, schools, breweries, nail salons and the like, which generates further economic activity. However, the fact that Oregon is a magnet state does one other thing. It keeps Oregon’s population from declining. As the number of deaths increase and number of births stagnate, the natural increase in Oregon’s population will turn negative in a few years. This has never happened in Oregon, at least not in our modern history. But it will in the middle of next decade based on our office’s demographic outlook.

If we step back and look at Oregon’s population growth, it has largely matched expectations and even come in a bit higher than our forecast from a handful of years ago. However the composition of that growth is shifting somewhat more than expected. Births continue to come in below expectations, while deaths are rising faster than an aging population alone would suggest. As such, Oregon’s rate of natural increase has been shrinking faster than expected. Oregon is becoming more and more reliant upon net in-migration for population growth.

Of course these population and demographic trends vary across the state. Over the past couple of years, 16 of Oregon’s 36 counties have experienced strong natural increases in their populations. These are primarily the counties in the Willamette Valley, Central Oregon, and then in Northeastern Oregon. The larger, and faster-growing urban areas that attract working-age households do see births continuing to outnumber deaths. Additionally, counties with larger minority populations also tend to see better gains due to higher birthrates relative to the non-Hispanic white population.

Another 6 counties see the number of births and deaths effectively offset.

That means 14 of Oregon’s 36 counties are seeing sizable declines as deaths outnumber births. Now, only a few counties have seen their total population decline, meaning that the influx of new residents moving into the area is generally enough to offset changes or declines in the natural increase. That said, aging demographics will have a large impact on every county in the state as discussed previously.

Bottom Line: As the number of deaths rise and births stagnate, Oregon is increasingly reliant upon net in-migration for population growth. Given that migration is pro-cyclical, this will likely contribute to economic volatility moving forward. Additionally, the population outlook is the key driver of every long-term forecast our office does. As such, anything that puts migration at risk — housing affordability, natural disasters, etc — potentially has big implications for Oregon’s economy, and public sector budgets.

We will dig into births in Part 2 and examine one reason deaths are rising faster in Part 3. Stay tuned.


Responses

  1. Historically low birth rates point to the economic challenges facing young adults, among them high housing costs, high childcare costs, student debt and stagnant wages over most of the wage spectrum. We badly need paid family leave and high quality public childcare, as well as far more effective attention to affordable housing, education and healthcare – not to mention an end to “non-compete” clauses in far too many employment contracts.

    • Thanks Mary! Yes, finances are a big reason why young adults say they are not having children today. I’ll touch on that and a NYT survey along those lines from last year. And while I, personally, believe more family-friendly policies would be great, I’m not sure, unfortunately, that they are sufficient to see a rebound in birthrates. They may be necessary but given international experiences, they are clearly not sufficient. Once birthrates drop, I’m not sure we have seen an advanced economy country raise them substantially. Now, that may be because they haven’t tried enough policies and the drop is some sort of new equilibrium…

  2. There is also an element of “group think” which contributes to decisions on part of young adults whether to marry, buy homes, have children, etc. People tend to do what they see most of their friends doing. This in turn causes impact of recession to linger, and these societal behaviors may never rebound to pre-recession norms. Young couples get used to the idea of being childless renters, and some small percentage of them will choose to remain that way, despite what the economy is doing.

    • Thanks Bill. That’s exactly my thoughts on this. While I don’t disagree at all with Mary’s comments above, I do think it’s broader than just financial causes. Once it becomes the societal norm, it’s hard to reverse. This is what we see when looking at birthrates internationally. They don’t rebound substantially, even after implementing family-friendly policies. They settle into a new equilibrium, more or less.

      Now, as I’ll touch on as well, Pew did some research showing the total number of children ever birthed to women by the time they are 45 years old has not fallen as much as the annual birthrate would indicate. The Pew work even shows total number of births stabilizing and even increasing in the past decade. This is generally referred to as the tempo effect. People may delay having children, but at the end of the day they end up having the same number in total. Obviously we have to wait another 10-20 years to see just how many children the Millennials end up having by the time they’re in their 40s and 50s. I’m personally skeptical that the tempo effect can fully explain what is happening for all the reasons you mentioned above.

  3. Having been born in Oregon, but living in California for many years, perhaps Oregon will now remove all restrictions on north bound I-5 exits to returning and visiting ducks?

    • Ha! Despite the angry online comments, I think those restrictions have been lifted for a long time! When Mark gave his Destination Oregon presentation a few years ago, he found some really interesting quotes from Governor McCall and Governor Atiyeh. Of course part of that is where we were in the business cycle. But you can see those on slide 2 from that presentation:
      https://oregoneconomicanalysis.com/2014/10/16/destination-oregon/

  4. […] Source: Oregon Births and Deaths, Part 1 | Oregon Office of Economic Analysis […]

  5. […] Part 1 looked at the natural increase in Oregon’s population, how it is expected to turn negative next decade and how half of Oregon counties already see deaths outnumber births. Today in Part 2 we will examine Oregon’s relatively stable, or stagnant, total number of births which is expected to continue in the decade ahead. […]

  6. […] Part 1 looked at the natural increase in Oregon’s population, how it is expected to turn negative next decade and how half of Oregon counties already see deaths outnumber births. Today in Part 2 we will examine Oregon’s relatively stable, or stagnant, total number of births which is expected to continue in the decade ahead. […]

  7. […] in Part 1 we looked at the big picture for Oregon births and deaths and across counties. In Part 2 we […]

  8. […] in Part 1 we looked at the big picture for Oregon births and deaths and across counties. In Part 2 we […]

  9. […] Lehner, who examined Oregon demographics in a series of reports last spring, anticipates births and deaths will be equal in 2024, with deaths subsequently exceeding births. The reason for this decline in births and rise in deaths is not surprising. People are postponing marriage, and the older population is dying off. […]

  10. […] Lehner, who examined Oregon demographics in a series of reports last spring, anticipates births and deaths will be equal in 2024, with deaths subsequently exceeding births. […]

  11. […] according to Josh Lehner, a state economist, who examined Oregon demographics in a series of reports last spring. Lehner projects births and deaths will be roughly equal in […]


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