Posted by: Josh Lehner | December 11, 2019

Aging Oregon Pt 1: Population Growth

Today begins a new occasional series where our office will explore some of the demographic, economic, and societal impacts of an aging population. Right now I see at least a handful of future posts. Some will be summarizing previous work on retirements and the impact on the labor force. However most will be new as we dig into the impacts on personal income, public sector revenues, housing markets, retirement homes, their workforce needs, and the like. I would appreciate your feedback and thoughts on topics for further exploration, including work you may have done as well. As always email me..

Oregon remains a magnet state. Our ability to attract and retain working-age households is our comparative advantage over the typical state. It is also the primary reason Oregon outperforms economically over the entire business cycle. These inflows of young, skilled residents should ensure relatively strong growth in the decades ahead. That said, the biggest changes and demographic shifts we will see across the state and the country will be the growth among our older age cohorts. Here in Part 1 of the series, I just wanted to illustrate this growth to set up the discussion on some of the implications of these changes.

Of course this is not unique across the country, the share of Oregon’s population that is 75 years or older will increase from around 6-7% of the overall population today to 12% in 2040. The Census Bureau’s projections for the U.S. are nearly identical, even as the underlying composition of the total population differs in part due to Oregon’s stronger growth among the working-age population.

As is always the case it is helpful to look at these changes in both absolute terms, or the number of residents, and in percentage terms. The growth in Oregon’s older populations is large in both dimensions, but the percentage changes are especially strong as the Baby Boomers age into their 70s and 80s in the decades ahead.

Taking more of a historical view we can clearly see how Oregon’s population has evolved. Now, the top two lines are what matter most for economic growth and the labor force. However the second two lines are where the demographics will shift the most in the decades to come. The implications of this will be where most of our newer research will focus.

Finally, while the aging population will impact every community and regional economy, we know these changes vary from place to place. This last chart shows the percentage increase in the population 75 years and older on the horizontal axis, or how large of an increase in the 75+ population there will be. On the vertical axis is a measure of the change in the share of the population 75 years and older. This speaks more toward how does the growth in the 75+ population relate to overall population growth in the country.

Let’s look at two examples.

First, notice the similarities and differences between Lane and Multnomah, right there in the middle of the chart. Both counties are expected to see increases of around 80% in their population aged 75 years or older. However the increase in the share of the overall population this represents in Lane is nearly twice that in Multnomah (5.2 vs 2.7 ppt). What this means is that while the percentage increase is the same, due to slower growth among children and the working-age population, Lane will age more than Multnomah will. Now, of course we all age the same amount each day, but in terms of the overall age distribution, it will seem like Lane ages more than Multnomah.

Second, notice Hood River way over on the right and Baker over on the left. The older population in Hood River is expected to grow 3.5 times as much as in Baker, however given Hood River is expected to to growth faster among all age cohorts, these percentage increases represent the same share increase of the total population. Both Hood River and Baker will see the share of their population 75 years and older increase by nearly 6 percentage points. The relative changes among each county’s age distribution are nearly identical, the difference is one county will grow faster than the other.

Stay tuned for more in the coming months on the impacts of these demographic changes.


  1. Josh: As you correctly note, the proportion of aging Americans is increasing everywhere. Given that fact, I’m much more interested in what state government are doing to prepare for this bulge in our population snake. State and private health care and pensions are already undergoing great stress. How will the housing markets be affected as older home owners transition to what ever living arrangement comes next. And, how much inherited wealth is likely to be transferred? All good questions that need addressing.

    • Thanks Scott. I agree! Hopefully I’ll touch on most of those. The public sector planning is the most challenging to scope out even how the aging impacts a bunch of programs that can act in silos. That’s the part I’ve struggled with tackling the most…

  2. What policies and/or practices should be considering pursuing now to help this older population age as healthy as possible to reduce the potential health care and public service costs?

  3. […] of the demographic, economic, and societal impacts of an aging population. Previously we looked at overall demographic trends, and the generally improving health of retirees. Future posts are set to examine the impacts on […]

  4. […] of the demographic, economic, and societal impacts of an aging population. Previously we looked at overall demographic trends, and the generally improving health of retirees. Future posts are set to examine the impacts on […]

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