In a state of expansion

Oregon’s population continues to increase

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Jeffery Osborns / The Torch

According to Portland State University’s Population Research Center, Oregon’s population has risen in the past year and Eugene is now ranked as the second most-populated city in the state.

The PRC website estimates that Oregon’s current population is 4.1 million people, a 1.6 percent increase from its population of 4 million people in 2016.

Charles Rynerson, the Oregon State Data Center coordinator and demographer at the PRC, aims to help Oregonians better understand the statistical information that the U.S. Census Bureau releases.

“There are four ways population can change,” Rynerson said, “births, deaths, people moving in, people moving out.”

Rynerson said that even though Oregon’s population as a whole has been increasing, the state has also seen an increase in the number of deaths and a decline in birthrates this past year. Currently, 19 of Oregon’s 36 counties have higher death rates than birth rates.

“Lane County has just joined that list,” Rynerson said. However, the increase in the number of people moving to Oregon offsets this fact.

Migration accounted for 88 percent of Oregon’s population increase this year, according to Rynerson. A major reason for this is Oregon’s job growth and record-low unemployment rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the current estimated unemployment rate in Oregon is 4.3 percent in October 2017, which is 0.7 percent higher than it was in May.

Rynerson added that although many people move to Oregon because “it’s a beautiful place or because they like the lifestyle or politics [here],” most people come to Oregon in search of jobs.

Heather O’Donnell, Eugene City Planning and Development Senior Planner, cited “the University, the recreational and natural amenities and its eclectic and approachable feel and size” as reasons that many migrate to Eugene in particular.

Whether or not this population increase is positive, depends on who is asked, according to Rynerson. If more people with high-paying jobs come to Oregon, the state will collect higher tax revenue. On the other hand, environmentalists may worry about resource consumption and the consequential harm done to the environment that an increase in population may cause.

O’Donnell said that even though Eugene’s population has increased only by a low average of 1 percent over the past decade, the planning division is still thinking ahead.

“[We] should continue to do long-term planning for where we will accommodate new places to live, work and play,” O’Donnell said.

She said that ensuring a wide variety of affordable housing types, such as single-family houses, duplexes, courtyard apartments, large apartments and retirement homes remains a challenge for Eugene’s Planning and Development Department. Nonetheless, O’Donnell adds, it is necessary in order to care for both the younger residents who are becoming adults and the aging people in the ever-changing City of Eugene.