Is the bloom off the rose?

Here's a year-end surprise: The federal Census Bureau estimates that Oregon's population declined by 16,164 people, or nearly 0.4 percent, between July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022. If these numbers are accurate, it's the first time the Census folks have noted a year-to-year decrease in the state's population since the good old days of the early 1980's. Cue up the Wham album!

The news should be encouraging to those of us who have long grown weary of the constant influx of new people who don't understand the Oregon way of doing things. For decades we've wished in vain that the Californians would take Tom McCall's advice and go back home after a nice visit. Remember "zero population growth"? It was a credible movement for a while there. I believe the 1,000 Friends of Oregon were originally a no-growth advocacy group. They knew what a grift "smart growth" was, and still is.

But I don't think too many old-timers are clicking their heels at the state of affairs that has led up to Oregon's demise as a hot destination. We stopped the in-migration, all right, but by making it a much crummier place to live. You can't have it both ways, I guess.

Anyway, if you're wonky enough, you can see the numbers the Census Bureau has pumped out, here. The "COMP" spreadsheet is pretty interesting. It estimates that between mid-2021 and mid-2022, Oregon saw 41,143 births and 46,232 deaths, for a net decline of 5089. Then they say that the number of people moving out was 10,305 greater than the number moving in. Somehow they threw in a decrease of another 770 people to get to the 16,164 overall decline.

You can bet that everyone will be spinning these new estimates to seek political advantage. Homelessness, taxes, developer handouts, even law enforcement – population numbers are relevant to all sorts of issues. 

“There’s not a single silver lining in the numbers...,” said Josh Lehner, an economist with the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. “I’m much more pessimistic right now than I’ve been in the last two-and-a-half years, from a demographic and population perspective.”...

Lehner said Oregon needs this growth to support local businesses, as well as to grow tax revenues that fund public services like transportation, roads, public health and education.

The conversations the new numbers will start are potentially endless. I'll throw an angle out there for some yakety-yak: Most people would agree that the number of severely mentally ill people in Portland, like the number of hard-core drug addicts here, has increased over the past year. If you add that increase to the overall decrease, Oregon must have lost even more than 16,000 normal people who are actually contributing to civic life.

Anyway, if you can't figure out a way to make the Census Bureau's numbers work for your political point of view, you can scoot over to the Portland State University population experts' website, where they provide an official-looking population estimate from time to time. According to the PSU folks, who are part of the absurd "urban planning" empire headquartered in the heart of the downtown crime zone, the state's population went up, not down, over the same year surveyed by the Census Bureau. 

PSU says the state's population increased by 15,083 people between July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022. And so they and the feds are 31,247 people apart. Given that this is a one-year-change estimate, that's a significant difference of opinion, not a rounding error. Somebody's got some 'splainin' to do.

But one thing everyone agrees on is that people are bailing on Multnomah County. Even the happy-talkers at Portland State acknowledge that Multnomah lost 2321 residents during the year in question. Their number went from 812,563 to 810,242, a 0.3 percent decrease. Nearby Washington County picked up 1533 people, according to PSU; Clackamas County, on the other side of town, increased by 3603. The problem, if there is one, is Portland proper, not the state or region.

Assuming, as I do, that the Census is right and PSU is wrong on the state level, we may have reached a point that none of us thought we'd ever see: People have stopped moving to Oregon. What does it mean, and will it continue? Let the discussion begin.


  1. Whether Thousand Friends of Oregon "officially" is or isn't if favor of zpg for Oregon makes no difference. As a practical matter, every time they throw "sand in the gears" by challanging development, which is their raison d'etre, no matter how noble their motives, the friction they create in the system, must, by the laws of economics, slow growth.

  2. Portland's the worst policy offender, but those geniuses in Salem who moved us to 47th most affordable place to live in 2022 (9 steps worse than Washington state) were doing their part too. Maybe don't copy *everything* California does.

  3. Roots go back to 1856 in Portland. The taxes, crime and overall decline - running through Irvington and watching a catalytic converter be stolen at 600a, were enough for me and my family.

    1. But at least you know that if the thief is caught, there will be consequences. No, wait...

  4. And yet our homeless population is skyrocketing while it declines most everywhere else. We certainly have inept leadership.

  5. Multnomah county is no longer a competitive place to do business or for an affluent person to live. The extremely high taxes (which will go even higher after the May capital gains tax election) together with the filth, crime and rampant homelessness make Portland undesirable. It seems unlikely that Multnomah or Portland will grow again for a long time to come.

  6. If the print media in Portland could survive without press releases from “government agencies “, they might comment on the movement of businesses to the suburbs.

  7. I regularly noted decade before last that Richard Florida's "creative class" would only tolerate being stacked upon each other and living without cars until they moment they reproduced, when they'd give up everything for a suburban house with a back yard because they couldn't let their kids play in the local parks. That's pretty much going at a nationwide level (look at the influx from California to Texas, where even at today's rates, they can afford a good house with back yard for the cost of a typical San Jose one-bedroom), but it's only going to get worse in Portland. The hipsters got everything they wanted, and as anybody in retail will tell you, once they've got it for free, they don't want it any more.


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