Posted by: Josh Lehner | February 4, 2021

Decomposing Oregon’s Population Growth

This edition of the Graph of the Week decomposes Oregon’s population growth and how it compares to other states. Overall Oregon is one of the faster growing states nationwide. Over the past decade we ranked 12th fastest, pending the official 2020 Census results. However our composition of growth is more interesting and worth taking a look as this question comes up from time to time.

In the big picture, Oregon is reliant upon domestic migration to drive our faster population gains. Oregon is not a major port of entry into the U.S. so we get few international migrants. Now, foreign-born residents as a share of our population is pretty normal, so those international migrants end up following the Oregon Trail just like the rest of us, but their initial destination in the U.S. is not often Oregon. In terms of domestic migration, roughly 3-4% of Oregon’s population just moved here in the past year, while 2-3% have moved away in the past year. On net, domestic migration contributes 0.5-1 percentage points of population growth per year over the past decade. This ranks 7th fastest among all states.

The other main avenue for population gains, as discussed yesterday, is the so-called natural increase, or the number of births minus deaths. If we walled off Oregon, would our population increase or decrease? Here Oregon ranks lower than most other states. The low ranking is primarily driven by low birth rates. Overall, women aged 15-44 years old, as a share of the population here in Oregon is a bit above average (14th highest in 2019). However low fertility rates among this cohort (45th) brings the number of births compared to the size of the population lower. On the other end, deaths in Oregon are in the middle of the pack. There are some age differences with younger age cohorts in Oregon having some of the lowest death rates in the nation, while older age cohorts experiencing average to slightly above average rates.

Finally, given this interesting pattern of growth, what other states are most similar to Oregon? Trying to decipher that can be complicated and depends upon your exact criteria. However after taking into consideration both the magnitude of growth and the composition of that growth, the following states tend to look most like Oregon: Delaware, North and South Carolina, Montana, and South Dakota. After that you get into the Arizonas, Colorados, Georgias, and Tennessees of the world. It’s an interesting grouping of states, and I need more time to noodle on it, but that’s what the data is showing for the past decade.

Bottom Line: Oregon’s population grows faster than most states. These gains are primarily due to domestic migration patterns. Most people who move are 20- and 30-somethings. As such, migration provides an ample supply of mostly younger, mostly skilled labor that allows local businesses to higher and expand at faster rates. As such, anything that affects or could potentially impact migration flows is something our office takes seriously. The main reason being if population growth slows below forecast, all of Oregon’s forecasts would need to be lowered, this goes for private sector business sales and public tax revenues alike. It’s not necessarily a problem, unless your responsibilities include forecasting Oregon’s economy and revenues…


  1. Thanks for the interesting data, what also would be interesting to look at is how this all relates to our states efforts to address greenhouse gasses and global warming . Not to mention the long term quality of life for our heirs.

  2. Hosh,

    Do you have analysis of household types, age shifts and urban/rural shifts?


    • Yes! Lots of that over the years, I think using the search function for “migration” and “household formation” and “population” will give the best results. Lots of smaller pieces on headship rates, population by county, where migrants come from/move to.

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