Oregonians is Debated Due to Its Shrinking Urban Population
A recent Oregon Values and Beliefs Center study revealed widespread ambivalence among Oregonians on population increase. Population expansion is seen as positive and harmful by just under half of Oregonians polled. Twenty percent thought the state’s growing population was detrimental to the state, while sixteen percent thought it was favorable.
The people of Oregon have identified two primary advantages of population expansion: economic prosperity and a more diverse population. Most Oregonians oppose population expansion because it increases traffic, drives up housing costs, stresses already overburdened public services, and depletes the state’s limited natural resources.
“Population growth is good for (the) economy but bad for the environment,” said one responder from Lane County, summing up the benefits and drawbacks of increased population. Despite widespread anxiety over the state’s growing population, most Oregonians (70%) stated they were happy where they were and intended to remain.
Several respondents praised Oregon’s beautiful scenery and many opportunities for outdoor activities as major draws to the state. Oregon’s land use rules were included in comments about housing, natural resources, and outdoor recreation, according to Ethan Sharygin, director of the Population Research Center at Portland State University.
“We’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of (Senate Bill) 100, which is responsible for much of the land use patterns that exist today,” Sharygin said. “In particular, the creation of urban growth boundaries which require cities to plan for growth and preserve much of the state’s open spaces for recreation and agriculture.”
Urban growth limits were initially adopted in Oregon, and their purpose was to limit city expansion while protecting farmland and other rural areas. SB 100 was also “a sign of a healthy bipartisan political atmosphere of the time,” which stuck out to Sharygin as something a number of the survey respondents felt the state now lacks.
For over 30 years, until last year, the population of Oregon grew annually, as reported by the Census Bureau. Yet, the Census Bureau reports that Oregon lost over 16,000 residents between July 2021 and July 2022. On the other hand, the Demographic Research Center at Portland State University estimates that Oregon gained 15,000. The Population Research Center and the United States Census reported a decline in Multnomah County’s population.
The data indicate that although the Population Research Center predicted that Multnomah County lost about 2,300 inhabitants for the year, the Census Bureau calculated a loss that was more than four times as significant. More respondents in urban regions favored expansion more than in rural areas, although the ratio of respondents who were either in favor of or opposed to growth was quite close across the state.
Compared to the tri-county region of Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties and the rest of the state, inhabitants of the Willamette Valley were somewhat less inclined to regard population expansion as a desirable thing.
The population increase was more prevalent among men, persons of color, and those with college degrees in Oregon. (The survey’s sample size was too small to publish findings for individual racial or ethnic groups confidently; therefore, results for persons of color and white Oregonians were compared.)
Around one-fifth of respondents were motivated by a desire to change their state of residence. Several residents of Oregon have expressed a desire to leave the state due to its high taxes, minimal job opportunities, high crime rate, and inadequate social services. One responder from Lane County cited the beautiful scenery and the fact that “it’s also a relatively safe state for me to be myself” (trans femme)” as reasons to remain.
A guy from Washington County remarked, “By leaving the state, I would be helping the hapless leaders that are ruining our state.” But, he believes that with significant reforms, Oregon may once again become a desirable place to live.
Most people who claimed they could identify as a better state than Oregon chose Idaho, followed by Washington, California, and Montana. Over half of those who selected a different state chose a western state, with Florida and Texas being the most popular choices outside the area.
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According to Sharygin, the survey’s findings on states to move to were supported by migration statistics. The states chosen by Oregonians “are the states that already send/receive a large number of migrants, so nothing exceptional,” he said. In 2022, Florida and Texas saw the highest numbers of residents moving in from other states.
According to Sharygin, “in general, there is more migration between places that are closer to each other.” “Most inter-state migration to/from the Portland metro area is either to the West Coast or PNW or too big cities around the country, while rural areas have more localized and smaller net migration.”
According to the Census Bureau, although 68% of the nation’s counties with 100,000 or more inhabitants witnessed a growth in population between 2021 and 2022, Multnomah County, home to an estimated 795,083 people as of July 2022, was not among them.
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