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Oregon -- Population -- Statistics, Demographic surveys -- Oregon, Population forecasting -- Oregon -- Wasco County


Different sub‐areas within Oregon’s counties experience different growth patterns. Those patterns combine to collectively determine county‐level demographic changes. Wasco County is comprised of two types of sub‐areas: urban‐growth boundary (UGB) areas (Antelope, Dufur, Maupin, Mosier, Shaniko, and The Dalles) and areas outside of those UGBs. In this report, we describe demographic trends and forecasts for the county as a whole as well as its sub‐areas.

Wasco County’s total population has grown slowly over the last half century. The exception to this trend was the tumultuous 1980s, related to both the deep recession that hit Oregon and to the sudden appearance, growth, and decline of the Rajneeshpuram commune in southern Wasco County. Over the last two decades, demographic patterns settled into a trend of slow growth. Within the county, however, sub‐areas experienced different growth patterns. The Dalles grew steadily at 0.6 percent annually during the 2000s, but its growth slowed to an average of 0.2 percent during the 2010s. Meanwhile, smaller UGB areas tended to add (or lose) a few dozen people but mostly remain unchanged (see Figure 1). The exception to this was Mosier, which reliably grew at 0.5 percent annually over the last two decades, perhaps benefiting from vacation appeal and its accessibility on the Columbia River Gorge between Hood River and The Dalles.

Considered as a whole, Wasco County’s population growth between 2000 and 2020 depended heavily on net in‐migration. In years with strong net in‐migration, the county experienced strong growth rates. However, in years with weak in‐migration or even out‐migration, growth rates slowed to a crawl or became negative.

Natural population increase (i.e. births exceeding deaths) was a much less reliable source of population growth for the county during the 20‐year period. It has also declined in magnitude since 2015 and has recently become negative. This pattern is not likely to change due to several factors. Most notably, between 2000 and 2010, Wasco County’s total fertility rate fell along with the statewide rate. We forecast this decline to slow but nonetheless continue. That— combined with the nationwide trend of aging population—has led to fewer births and more deaths over time, and thus, declining natural increase that ultimately turns into natural decrease.


This report is published by the Population Research Center at Portland State University, and is a product of the Oregon Population Forecast Program.

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