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What’s driving Portland’s sudden population decline?

April 11, 2018

By Taxpayer Foundation of Oregon

The most recent population estimates from the Census Bureau show that Portland’s population growth has slowed to the lowest level in years.

The Portland metropolitan area—which includes Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties, as well as Clark county in Washington—grew by a little more than 30,000 in 2017. That amounts to an increase of 1.2 percent. In contrast, the metro area added about 40,000 people a year in 2015 and 2016.

Economist Bill Conerly notes in his newsletter that migration to Oregon has also slowed. As shown in the figure above, the number of people from out-of-state who have surrendered their driver’s licenses has seen a similar slowdown. The number of surrendered licenses has dropped by more than five percent since 2016. Conerly blames Oregon’s high cost of living.

The reasons for slow down vary. One likely factor is the aging of the Millennial generation. As members of this mini Baby Boom enter their thirties and look to buy houses and raise families, they seek out suburbs and more affordable metropolitan areas. Research find that many of the metros with the fastest growth are those where buying a home remains feasible for middle income families. With rising interest rates and median home price of $390,000 (up 11.4 percent from a year earlier), Portland is no longer affordable for middle income families. Underperforming schools, rising property taxes and the perennial threat of new sales taxes, soda taxes, carbon taxes, and business taxes inject uncertainty that is surely a turnoff to potential residents.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, since 2013, morning travel times have increased by almost four percent and afternoon travel times have increased by nearly eight percent. This added time stuck commuting to and from work imposes a real cost on workers and families, diminishing the attractiveness of dense urban areas like Portland.

Other factors, such as increased burglaries in Portland’s residential neighborhoods, have reduced the attractiveness of Portland to potential new residents. In addition to the city’s growing homeless population, city policies have pushed homeless residents out of the urban core and into the outlying residential areas to the point that just about every Portland neighborhood has at least one homeless camp.
Portland’s slowdown in population growth is certainly due in part to broader demographic changes. Nevertheless, it is clear that public policy decisions have made the region less attractive to newcomers.

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Discuss this article

William Darcy April 11, 2018

The land of Oregon is outstanding in many ways and it’s population should be thriving and prospering, however the Communist form of government precludes that from happening. Only the ones favored by the “party” will succeed! People who are actually productive and benefit others will languish and be forced out.

Steve Carpenter April 11, 2018

Portland has been a popular success for long time, it just slowed down.

Things are all right in P-town. Relax.

Lori April 11, 2018

Portland is still where people want to live compared to the rest of Oregon

Bob Clark April 11, 2018

It must be global cooling and not warming; because we are occasionally told by some speakers in Metro area governments, Portland is attracting climate “refugees.” Or probably this is nonsense, like it is most of the time.

In the year 2017 versus 2016, Portland’s consumer price index (inflation) is reported at just over 4% versus just over 2% for the rest of the U.S. Portland is becoming less affordable overall and not just housing inflation (which even Metro’s president admits is in significant measure government induced).

Bob Whelan April 11, 2018

One of our employees moved her family out of Portland to Beaverton because of poor quality public school (her son is a 3rd grader). I’ve heard this recently from others thinking of leaving the city.

David April 11, 2018

Reasons for leaving???
Crime, Liberal politicians, Bums, Exorbitant taxes,

Lori April 11, 2018

Every big city has crime, homeless problem.

Maybe it was those same liberal politicians that helped create the population to Portland to begin with.

Don Root April 13, 2018

Headline is incorrect. A decline in growth rate is not a decline in population.

Gern Blanston April 13, 2018

I agree with Don Root although the homeless situation is out of hand and taxes are not affordable for most. I believe continued growth is in no way sustainable due to fiscal mismanagement and a mostly unfriendly business climate. Enjoy the bubble while it lasts.

George April 13, 2018

The inmates have taken over the asylum. If you want to know why people are leaving ride the Springwater corridor, or try crossing the Sellwood bridge or Ross island Bridge after 7:00 AM. Portland: Sanctuary City.

Pd April 14, 2018


“…grew by a little more than 30,000”

Ben Enya April 15, 2018

Enjoy your “bubble” while you can. I visited a couple towns in Eastern Oregon, hell bought land over there too, and what you see are friendly, down home folks willing to share and help each other in daily life.

Others will notice this too. Commodities are cheaper, customer service actually exists, local government is accountable and not trying to rape their tax base… Portland is the next Flint. Crime rates rising, homeless and illegal aliens are welcomed, the taxpayers are being taxed above and beyond their worth, etc etc etc.

Dave H April 19, 2018

Taxing the population into poverty. Creating an atmosphere of pseudo help for the homeless, drug addled and illegal immigrant population which is overtly protected and attracting more of the same. A time when property taxes are reaching $1000 a month and the public employee system is sucking the life out of the taxed population. Liberals are just that, liberally spending your money, creating holes in spending requiring more tax dollars to fill them all the while real holes are literally damaging your vehicle on swiss cheese street infrastructure. I’ve lived in the Portland area all of my life and never has it been more ugly than now.

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