Residents Are Fleeing These 5 Fastest-Shrinking Counties in Oregon

Written by Oak Simmons
Published: October 29, 2023
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Oregon is the 27th-most populous state in the U.S. From 2020 to 2022, Oregon’s population increased by 2,846, from 4,237,291 to 4,240,137 people. That’s just a 0.07% increase in population, which is relatively low compared to other states. For example, Idaho, Oregon’s neighbor to the east, saw a 4.9% increase in population from 2020 to 2022. It has become clear that some of Oregon’s counties are shrinking. This article explores the five fastest-shrinking counties in Oregon by their percentage of population decrease from 2020 to 2022. Let’s discover why these counties are shrinking.

1. Multnomah County

Portland, Oregon, USA Skyline

Portland is the county seat of Multnomah County and the most populous city in Oregon.

©Sean Pavone/iStock via Getty Images

Multnomah is the most populous county in Oregon. It is located in the northern Willamette Valley, which runs north to south between the Coast Range and the Cascade Range. Interestingly, Multnomah County is the smallest county in Oregon by area. Multnomah County is home to Portland, the most populous city in Oregon, as well as Gresham, the fourth-most populous city in Oregon.

From 2020 to 2022, Multnomah County’s population decreased from 816,467 to 795,083. That’s a loss of 21,384 people, and a 2.62% decrease. According to the director of Portland State University’s Population Research Center, Ethan Sharygin, a large factor in the county’s population decline is aging people moving to suburbs where home prices are cheaper. According to Sharygin, many people left Multnomah County for two of its more suburban neighboring counties, Washington and Clackamas.

Additionally, migration due to the Covid-19 pandemic is another factor in Portland’s population decline. In 2020, many people began working from home due to the pandemic. This led to people across the country moving out of cities and into more suburban areas. Portland, along with many other major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, saw a ton of remote workers move out of the city in 2020.

2. Jackson County

Jackson County Courthouse

Medford is the county seat and most populous city in Jackson County. Its population is 85,556.

©Rex_Wholster/iStock via Getty Images

Jackson County is the sixth-most populous county in Oregon. It is located in the Klamath Mountains of southern Oregon and borders Siskiyou County, California to the south.

From 2020 to 2022, Jackson County’s population decreased from 223,613 to 221,644. That’s a loss of 1970 people, and a 0.88% decrease. Jackson County’s population decline is likely related to Oregon’s declining birth rate, a factor affecting the entire state. Additionally, deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic caused an increase in the death rate from 2020 to 2022. The combination of these factors has caused Oregon’s population to decline overall.

3. Josephine County

Josephine County is the 13th-most populous of Oregon’s 36 counties. Like Jackson County, its neighbor to the east, Josephine County is located in the Klamath Mountains of southern Oregon. Josephine County borders California’s Siskiyou and Del Norte Counties to the south.

From 2020 to 2022, Josephine County’s population decreased from 88,235 to 87,730. That’s a loss of 505 people, and a 0.57% decrease. Josephine County’s population decrease is related to Oregon’s overall population decline.

4. Lane County

Administrative building exterior Johnson Hall on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene.

Eugene is the county seat and most populous city in Lane County. As of 2022, its population is 177,923.

©Joshua Rainey Photography/

Lane County is the fourth-most populous county in Oregon. It is also the sixth largest by area, with a total area of 4,554 square miles. Lane County is wide from west to east, stretching from the coast, through the Coast Range, the Willamette Valley, and the Cascade Range. Additionally, Lane County is bordered by the Klamath Mountains to the south. Its unique location between three mountain ranges gives residents and visitors a view of the mountains in every direction except to the north.

From 2020 to 2022, Lane County’s population decreased from 383,279 to 382,353. That’s a loss of 926 people, and a 0.24% decrease. Lane County’s population decrease is related to Oregon’s overall population decline.

5. Washington County

Washington County is the second-most populous county in Oregon. It is located in the Tualatin Valley of northern Oregon, west of Multnomah County. Washington County borders the Coast Range to the north and west, the Tualatin Mountains to the north and east, and the Chehalem Mountains to the south.

From 2020 to 2022, Washington County’s population decreased from 601,101 to 600,176. That’s a loss of 925 people, and a 0.15% decrease. Washington County’s population decrease is related to Oregon’s overall population decline.

Summary of the Fastest-Shrinking Counties in Oregon

RankCounty2020 Population2022 PopulationPercent Change
Data from the United States Census Bureau.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Pavone

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About the Author

Oak Simmons is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering North American wildlife and geography. They graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. A resident of Washington state, Oak enjoys tracking mammals and watching birds.

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