While our Region celebrates diversity, understanding our most common traits is helpful to making long-lasting and impactful decisions that strengthen our communities and the individuals living in them.
A Region’s diversity cannot be summed up in any one person, but averages can tell us a story.
Our Region’s typical resident is named Jennifer, is 39 years old, is married, has two children, and is a high school graduate, with some college education.
How did we go about determining the traits of this typical person?
Data about the economic and demographic makeup of a Region can provide a broad overview of the commonalities among our Region’s residents. Taking several factors into consideration, the profile of an “average” resident emerges. For example, the demographic graphic above shows us some of these common traits; we know that 50% of our Region’s residents over the age of 14 are married. We also know from the U.S. Social Security Administration that “Jennifer” was the most common name given to females born in Oregon in 1981; since 39 is the average age of residents in our Region, 1981 is her birth year. Why a female and not a male? Because there are more women than men in the Region, as shown on the age distribution chart below.
Why is Jennifer important?
By understanding similar attributes, local elected officials, business leaders, nonprofit associations, and OCWCOG can use this information, and similar data to make decisions in the public and private space, regarding funding priorities, development opportunities, etc. This information assists community leaders in answering questions about its residents.
Our Region has seen steady population growth over the past several decades. The annual growth from 1960 to 2015 was 1.4 percent, slightly less than the State’s 1.5 percent, but above the national rate of 1.1 percent.
Growth in the Region, State, and U.S. has slowed in recent years, however, as the U.S. Census Bureau and Portland State University Population Center report. The annual growth rate from 2010-2020 in the Region was estimated at just 0.8 percent; mid-decade on demonstrated an increased decline. This slower growth is projected to continue. According to the State of Oregon’s long-term population forecasts, our Region is projected to grow at an annual rate of 0.9 percent over the next ten years.
Population growth comes from natural increase (births less deaths) and migration. Most of the growth in our Region comes from positive net migration.
This Annual Population Growth Rates chart shows that Oregon and the Region’s growth rates have been above the nation for the first part of the past decade. However, all growth rates have generally been trending down in recent years. Population growth comes from natural increase (births less deaths) and migration. Most of the growth in our Region comes from positive net migration. However, it remains to be seen how the economic crisis driven by public health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic will affect migration.
For information about the demographics of people who are moving into our Region from other places in Oregon, and beyond, see Migration.
Population Distribution by Age
Our Region is experiencing two trends in relation to its population.
First, the overall population is aging. This can be attributed in part to the large number of baby boomers (born 1946-1964) reaching their senior years. According to 2019 population estimates, baby boomers make up 26 percent of the Region’s population. This trend is also attributed to an influx of first- and second-wave retirees (those who have recently retired, and those who have been retired for many years).
Second, the Region attracts many young adults, due in part to those moving here to attend our university and community colleges. Members of the millennial generation, who are now in their college years, make up 18 percent of the Region’s population, according to the 2019 population estimates. For more on the Region’s education, see Community and Health Indicators.
The Region’s median age, at 39.5, is similar to the State’s 39.3. Across the Region, however, the age distribution looks quite different from county-to-county. As expected, Benton County, home of Oregon State University (OSU), has a large college-age population, and the median age is 33. In Lincoln County, almost the reverse is true, with baby boomers the largest segment of the population and the median age over 51. Linn County, the most populous county in the Region, has a balanced age distribution.
The Region’s population was estimated to be 49.4 percent male and 50.6 percent female. As shown in the population pyramid below, the distribution of the population has changed dramatically over the last three decades as the baby boomers went from young adults to near retirement.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2019, 82.3 percent of the Region’s population identified as non-Hispanic white, down from 84.3 percent in 2014, while the Hispanic Latino population had the largest increase during this period – up 1.2% from 2014.
According to 2019 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, 95.4 percent of Benton County residents speak English only or speak English “very well,” 97.7 percent in Lincoln County, and 97.6 percent in Linn County. This compares with 91.6% for the U.S. and 94.4% for Oregon.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 estimates, the Region’s median household income is $56,491, up from $45,577 in 2014. However, this is slightly below the household median of both the U.S. and Oregon, which are $62,843 and $62,818 respectively.
For information about how much residents in the Region spend on housing, see Housing.
As the economy began to recover from the recession that started in late 2007, unemployment rates steadily dropped through the last decade in the state and our Region. Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.7% by December, 2019, the lowest on record dating back to 1976 according to the Oregon Employment Department statistics.
Then the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring of 2020. Linn County’s unemployment jumped from 3.8 percent in March to 15.2 percent the next month. Benton County saw the least impact from the COVID recession, peaking at 10.6 percent in April, partly due to the strong influence of OSU employment. Lincoln County, with its high employment in tourism-related jobs, had an April, 2020 peak unemployment rate of 26.2 percent and the distinction of having the highest county unemployment rate in the state for several months.
One year later, however, Oregon and the Region is rebounding and is poised for a strong recovery. According to the Oregon’s Office of Economic Analysis (OEA), the state will recover slightly more than half of pandemic job losses in 2021 with the rest coming next year. Oregon should return to pre-COVID employment levels by early 2023, according to their analysis.
For more community indicators, including data on public assistance programs, Community and Health Indicators.