Posted by: Josh Lehner | July 18, 2019

More on Migration to Oregon

Last week we updated the basics of migration to Oregon. The post generated quite a few comments and questions. As such I wanted to post an update with a little more information.

First, a common theme among the discussions is what exactly makes Oregon different than the typical state when it comes to population growth. I would say three things. One, Oregon has among the lowest birthrates nationwide. Two, Oregon has an above average sized Baby Boomer cohort, many of which moved here in the 1970s and 1990s. Three, Oregon’s ability to see net in-migration across all age groups and across nearly all states on a consistent basis is what really makes us stand out. There’s a reason only about 1 out of every 3 adults in Oregon today was actually born here.

Second, the sentence “[t]he California migrants disproportionately locate along the coast and in central and southern Oregon” generated a lot of questions as well. I should have explained that one better and I do have a correction to make to it.

What I meant by disproportionate is looking at migration patterns relative to the existing population in Oregon. So if 10% of the state lives in southern Oregon but they see 20% of net migration from California, then I would say Californians disproportionately locate in southern Oregon. Similarly, central Oregon is home to 5% of the state’s population but they see 12% of net migration from California. You can see this in the chart below, along with migration patterns (shares of statewide totals) to Washington and then from all other states.

Now, while a plurality of Californians move to the Portland region, they do not move there at a rate above what you would expect given that the Portland region is basically half of the state. But the Portland region clearly accounts for the vast majority of statewide losses to Washington and statewide gains from the rest of the country.

What you may notice is that the coast does not stand out. In recent years Californians (or migrants more broadly) are not disproportionately moving to the coast. I am correcting the sentence in the previous post. Now, during the housing boom and through the bust’s aftermath, this was definitely true, up until 2012. Since 2013, the share of Californians moving the coast is what you would expect, or lower, given the size of the local population. My apologies for the mistake.

Other items that stand out include that the Willamette Valley sees relatively little migration to or from other states given its size. Apparently not a lot of people around the country pack up and move directly to Albany or Salem. Now, if you look back at the county bubble chart in last week’s post, OregoniansĀ are moving to Albany and Salem at higher rates than Americans more broadly are. The Valley remains an attractive place to live but does not garner the national attention that, say, Bend and Portland do.

Speaking of Bend, central Oregon has seen a net gain from Washington in recent years. This is unusual given that we typically see net losses from all parts of Oregon to Washington. But each of the past few years, central Oregon has gained population from all parts of Washington include the Seattle MSA and southwestern Washington. I will be keeping an eye on this when new data comes out.

Finally, I wanted to post a couple of charts that are updates from work we did six years ago. These look at where in Washington folks from Oregon are moving to and then where in California folks are moving from. These charts don’t show a full regional decomposition but I tried to highlight the important patterns and where some patterns differ.

First up, let’s look at the Oregon outflows to Washington. Overall, a bit more than half of Oregonians who move to Washington move just across the river to southwest Washington. Nearly 90% of Oregonians moving to southwest Washington come from the Oregon side of the Portland MSA. As mentioned last week, these patterns are partly about taxes but also partly about the classic suburban play.

Now, once we get away from Portland, we see different migration patterns. For example, migration to the Seattle region accounts for a larger share and then those moving out of eastern Oregon mostly move across the border into the Tri-Cities or Walla Walla areas. Among the the “Rest of WA” groups, the largest moves there include those to Olympia and Spokane.

Lastly, let’s take a similar look at where in California people moving to Oregon come from. I think the biggest misconception out there is that most California migrants come from the Bay Area. This is just not the case. Most come from Southern California.

Now, the Bay Area is only about 20% of the California population so these migration patterns show the Bay Area punching above its weight, but still a minority overall.

Regarding southern California, more than one-third of these migrants come from LA and nearly one-quarter from San Diego.

Also note that the Rest of California migrants account for a larger share of those moving into southern Oregon. Half of these migrants (16% of the total) come from the very northern California counties, which account for just 1% of California’s population. This speaks to the fact that not very many people move overall, and most of those that do move, do not move very far. This is one reason why the migration flows along the West Coast are so much larger for Oregon than when looking at the other states.


  1. […] * Since 2013 Californians no longer disproportionately move to the coast. Apologies for the mistake. See this post for more. […]

  2. In-migration from northernmost CA to Southern OR, out-migration from Portland to SW WA, and out-migration from Eastern OR to Central WA, all provide clear evidence to support your statement that most people who move “do not move very far”. On the other hand, in the Eastern US, even a short move could easily span a couple of states. Perhaps this effect is at least a part of what “makes Oregon different than the typical state”. What might it look like if we were able to conduct this analysis by extending an Oregon-size grid over the rest of the continental US?

  3. […] Source: More on Migration to Oregon | Oregon Office of Economic Analysis […]

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