Numbers That Make You Go Hmmm - February 5, 2021

Yesterday, I sent out a short two-minute survey to assist Jewish Family and Child Service in their work. If you have yet to do so, please fill out the survey here.
There was an important article in yesterday’s Oregonian that piqued my interest. It was about the slowing of Oregon’s growth over the past several years. According to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, “in migration” is slowing, birthrates are falling, and our state’s population is aging. Moreover, in 2020 the state had more people die than babies being born (by approximately 200) for the first time ever. Certainly, COVID has played a role, and once we get past the pandemic births will again outnumber deaths – at least for a period of time.
I was so interested I decided to dive a little deeper ( I apologize for all the numbers).
Many of you will remember in 1971, former Governor Tom McCall famously invited tourists to visit Oregon again and again. “But for heaven’s sake,” he declared, “don’t move here to live.”
Yet Oregon economists have long noted that, with its birthrate declining, the state relies on in-migration for much of its economic growth. If the population continues to age, and birth rates remain low, the state will grow more dependent on migration long after the pandemic has eased.
According to the latest census data, Oregon’s population grew by just over 10% from 2010 through 2019, 11th-fastest in the nation during that stretch. Migration accounted for three-quarters of that growth with most of the population growth in the Portland metro region. Still, Oregon economists worry migration may actually be slowing – with potentially serious consequences for the state.
Oregon’s population change is greatly influenced by net migration and migration is affected by the overall economy and unemployment in the state. Because of the gloomy economic and employment situation in the state, migration flow slowed considerably between 2008 and 2013. The same is holding true today as we weather the pandemic and the resulting economic challenges. In 2018, the net migration of 56,900 people was the highest in the past 70 years while 2020 saw only 28,000 transplants to Oregon.
When Oregon’s economy was rapidly expanding during the 1990s, the average annual net migration of 41,500 accounted for nearly 75% of the population change. This share declined to 59% during the decade of 2000-10. The contribution of migration in Oregon’s population growth will play an enormous role once the natural increase (births minus deaths) is expected to turn negative in 2027When this happens, then the entire increase in population will have to come from the migration component.
Now, what about children, since last year there were more deaths than births in the state? The rate of growth of children in Oregon continues to track well below the overall population growth rate. The main reason is the declining fertility rate. Our state’s birthrate is at a 30-year low and the 5th lowest in the country (behind only Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts).
Look at these numbers:
Children under age 5 as percent of state population:
1990         7.6%
2000         6.5%
2018         5.5%
Children ages 5-17 as percent of state population:
1990         19.9%
2000         18.2%
2018         15.4%
You can see the percentage of children in Oregon’s population has declined over the decades. This share will gradually decline over time to 4.7% for children under age five and to 13.3% for the children ages 5-17 by 2030.
Maybe this will help shed light on what is happening in the metro area based on birth rates:
Births in Multnomah County:
1990-1999         avg. 9,161 per year
2000-2009         avg. 9,700 per year
2010-2019         avg. 9,020 per year    (2019 – 7,980)
Births in Washington County:
1990-1999         avg. 6,060 per year
2000-2009         avg. 7,659 per year
2010-2019         avg. 6,927 per year    (2019 – 6,395)
Births in Clackamas County:
1990-1999         avg. 4,009 per year
2000-2009         avg. 4,054 per year
2010-2019         avg. 4,007 per year    (2019 – 3,867)
The number of births in 2019 was well below each county’s average for the entire decade. In addition, doing an informal, non-scientific look at these numbers, if we estimate the Jewish community is 2% of the metro population then that means there were 365 Jewish births in these three counties in 2019. In 2010 that number would be 412 Jewish births. And this is despite an increase of 317,000 people in the metro area during that same time period.
Now, let’s talk about those ages 65 and over. To simplify the numbers, about one in 10 persons were elderly in 1980. That will change to one in five in 2030. And, over the next 10 years those aged 75-84 will increase by an astounding 87% as the large baby-boom birth cohort continue to enter this age group.
* All statistics above are from the Oregon Health Authority.
** I apologize for not including data from SW Washington.
I know – lots of numbers to digest. While I am no demographer, I do understand that these trends will impact our Jewish community:
  • Whether there is more or less in migration (which will impact the overall size of our Jewish community), we need to find ways to better welcome and connect those individuals to our Jewish community. The hard part is we often do not know they even moved here.
  • Fewer children (many from families who may have little to no involvement with the Jewish community) will impact numbers in our Jewish pre-schools, Jewish day schools, congregations, and Jewish summer camps.
  • A growing elderly population will require more services, especially in-home care, as people wish to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.
There are already enough challenges with engagement and affiliation within the Jewish community. With a potentially shrinking pool of Jewish people, we have our work cut out as these natural changes take place.
Curious in your thoughts!
Shabbat shalom and enjoy the Super Bowl.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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