The Ins and Outs of Southwestern Oregon’s Population

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by Annette Shelton-Tiderman

September 13, 2018

Westward, ho! Thus, waves and waves of immigrants have traveled across the country to Oregon – the “Golden West.” Oregon continues to be idealized in story and song as the “land of empire builders,” “fairest and the best,” and “land of the setting sun.” Since the sun sets over Coos, Curry, and Douglas counties – the state’s southwestern corner, this region is a fitting journey’s end.

Living in the “Land of the Setting Sun” 

Between 2015 and 2016, nearly 89 percent of southwestern Oregonians filing federal income tax returns had lived in the same county the previous year. Regionally, there were well-over 64,500 returns filed by these non-migrants and just over 131,000 exemptions claimed. On average, there were two exemptions claimed per return, suggesting these non-migrants included a family member in addition to the person filing the return. The average adjusted gross income for those settled in the area’s communities was $25,631 per exemption. This is noticeably less than the $35,355 statewide average.
Coos County’s non-migrants accounted for nearly one-third of the region’s claimed exemptions. There were two exemptions per return with an adjusted gross income of $25,681. Curry County’s non-migrants accounted for 11.6 percent of the region’s exemptions; their adjusted gross income was $26,811. Curry County’s tax filers averaged 1.9 exemption per return, suggesting fewer families than in Coos County or the larger Douglas County (2.1). The latter made up 56.2 percent of regional exemptions reported and had the lowest adjusted gross income ($25,359).

Oregonians Moving to the “Land of the Setting Sun”

All told, the 3,515 Oregonians moving to Coos, Curry, or Douglas County came primarily from neighboring Oregon counties. These in-migrants accounted for 2.4 percent the region’s income tax exemptions. This group included more single filers, with only 1.8 exemptions per return. The average adjusted gross income of these in-bound Oregonians was $20,251, which is less than that of non-migrants ($25,631).

Of the 3,515 Oregonians moving to southwestern Oregon, 54.5 percent landed in Douglas County. Their adjusted gross income was $19,877 – noticeably less than that of non-migrants. Neighboring Lane County accounted for nearly 26 percent of these new Douglas County residents ($18,452 per exemption), followed by Coos County, 14.5 percent ($16,339); Jackson County, 7.1 percent ($17,669); Washington County, 5.7 percent ($26,373); and Multnomah County, 4.7 percent ($29,615).

One-third of the Oregonians moving to the region settled in Coos County. The adjusted gross income was $20,231 as compared with the county’s non-migrant average of $25,681. Former Douglas County residents accounted for 18.5 percent of new Coos citizens ($18,696), followed by Lane County, 15.2 percent ($20,298); Curry County, 8.1 percent ($13,379); Jackson County, 7.1 percent ($24,193); and Multnomah County, 5.6 percent ($25,091).

Curry County, at the region’s southernmost border, received 12.2 percent of in-bound Oregonians. The adjusted gross income was $21,972 – noticeably less than the $26,811 for Curry’s non-migrants. Just over one-fifth of Curry County’s in-bound Oregonians came from nearby Jackson County ($17,684). Lane County contributed 10.7 percent ($16,391); Josephine County, 7.9 percent ($28,176); and Coos County, 8.2 percent ($27,457).

Out-of-State Residents Moving to the “Land of the Setting Sun”

Regionally, out-of-state in-migrants accounted for 4 percent of exemptions claimed (5,870) – 1.9 per return. Their adjusted gross income was noticeably more than Oregon in-migrants. Their $25,130 average adjusted gross income indicates that out-of-state, in-bound migrants brought more wealth with them than those relocating from other parts of Oregon.

Again, Douglas County was the destination of the most people – 2,723 (46.4%). The adjusted gross income was $23,837. Federal tax records generally provide only national regions as places of origin. However, California’s Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino counties were often cited as places of origin.

Coos County maintained the same attraction level (33.3%) for in-bound Oregonians and those from out of state. The reported earnings averaged $24,494, slightly above that reported in Douglas County but less than reported in Curry County. Counties of origin included Los Angeles and San Diego counties and Clark County, Nevada.

Curry County’s attraction for out-of-state migrants was substantially greater than that for relocating Oregonians. Just over one-fifth of the new regional residents moved to Curry County. Their adjusted gross income was $29,106 – the highest of the three counties. Neighboring Del Norte County, California, accounted for 9.0 percent of non-Oregon in-migrants ($31,537), and Los Angeles County accounted for 4.3 percent ($55,647).

Moving On but Staying in Oregon

Although Southwestern Oregon gains more in-bound migrants than it loses, there is still some movement to other Oregon counties as well as out of state. During 2015 to 2016, 3,897 residents left the region but stayed within the state. There were 1.8 exemptions per tax return filed with an adjusted gross income of $22,084. Out-bound Douglas County residents accounted for nearly 52 percent ($23,339) of the region’s departures. Coos County accounted for 34.5 percent of out-bound residents ($20,334) choosing to leave the region but stay in Oregon. In addition, just under 14 percent of regional out-bound residents left from Curry County to other parts of the state ($21,757).

Many of the departing Douglas County residents headed north. Lane County, home of the University of Oregon as well as an expanding technology and business hub, received 29.7 percent of out-bound Douglas County residents ($25,768). Coos County accounted for 10.8 percent ($18,696); Jackson County, 9.6 percent ($18,223); Washington County, 7.1 percent ($35,706); and Multnomah County, 4.9 percent ($25,919).

Coos County out-bound residents moved inland. Douglas County gained 277 people (20.6%) with below county-average incomes ($16,339). Lane County received 18.6 percent of out-bound Coos residents ($18,888); Jackson County, 7.1 percent ($17,896); Multnomah County, 6.2 percent ($26,651); and Marion County, 5.7 percent ($27,908).

Curry County saw a shift north and east. Nearby Coos County accounted for 17.6 percent of those departing Curry County; the average incomes were notably low – $13,379. Jackson County received 15.2 percent of Curry’s out-bound citizens ($30,720). Lane County received 9.6 percent ($11,192 – the lowest income reported for any of the region’s counties for any destination). Douglas County gained 45 former Curry County residents (8.3 percent, $22,689); and Deschutes County in rapidly growing central Oregon gained 5.7 percent ($30,323) of Curry County’s former residents.

Moving On and Leaving Oregon

For those leaving the state, Coos County accounted for 32.8 percent ($26,972); Curry for 19.0 percent ($22,597); and Douglas for 48.2 percent ($23,685) of those leaving the state. The regional average adjusted gross income for those leaving the region and state was $23,685.

Curry County funneled its residents to a wide variety of places; Del Norte, California, was cited in the tax records ($18,011). Coos and Douglas counties sent residents to Clark County, Washington, ($22,870 and $22,879, respectively). Douglas County also lost residents to Clark County, Nevada, ($23,375) and to Maricopa County, Arizona, ($51,239).

Population growth results from the cumulative effects of in-bound and out-bound migrants and the number of area births and deaths. Southwestern Oregon is dependent on its newly arrived residents for growing its population. Of the 147,751 individuals represented by federal income tax data, just under 90 percent were already regional residents. The region gained 9,385 people and lost 7,326. This represents a net gain of just over two thousand people. From 2018 to 2030, southwestern Oregon’s population is projected to grow 4.2 percent. Coos County is expected to grow by 0.6 percent; Curry County by 4.8 percent; and Douglas County by 6.1 percent. Projected regional growth is anticipated to slow after 2030, to a growth rate of 3.9 percent between 2030 and 2045. In Coos and Curry counties growth rates are expected to decline to 2.1 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively. However, the population in Douglas County is projected to grow by 7.3 percent. Overall, the region’s economic stability as well as future development will be linked to the ins and outs of the region’s migration patterns.

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