Portland’s residents value its small town
feel, its human scale, and its community connectedness
– the feeling that we know and care for one another.
Yet in the future, Portland’s population is expected
to grow into that of a much larger city.
The City of Portland has experienced consistent
growth since the 1980s through annexations, migration
and natural growth. Between 1990 and 2000, the most
significant increases in population were in the
central city and the neighborhoods east of I-205,
though no Portland neighborhoods have seen significant
declines in population. About 40% of the growth
has occurred due to migration into the city, with
the rest from natural increase (where there are
more births than deaths) (1).
Population projections within the City of Portland
boundaries show very little growth in the short
run. From 2000 to 2007, Portland’s population grew
by about 4 percent, making it the 31st largest city
in the US, according to the Census Bureau. The Planning
Bureau projects that the city’s population will
grow by only 3 percent over the next five years.
Nevertheless, growth of the regional population
will likely increase demand for the city’s services
The Metropolitan Region
The metropolitan area has grown significantly in
recent decades, gaining nearly a million people
between 1970 and 2000. Between 1990 and 2000 alone,
our region grew at about twice the rate of the nation
as a whole, with 70% of this growth caused by migration
to the area (2).
While Multnomah County continues to have more people
than other counties, its share of the overall population
has been falling. In fact, between 1990 and 2000,
Clark County grew at a rate of 45%, Washington County
at 43% and Multnomah County at a relatively lower
While Portland has seen new households in the Pearl
District and downtown, many of the region’s new
households are at the periphery. This is already
changing the distribution of population across the
metropolitan area, and is expected to continue to
do so. However, Portland is still the site of a
significant amount of regional development. Currently,
the City of Portland has a goal to capture 20% of
new regional households. Between 1995 and 2005,
the City exceeded that goal for a rate of 33% over
the 10-year period (4).
According to Metro, our regional, tri-county government
body, the Portland area gains 500 people in an average
week. Metro estimates that an additional million
people will be in the region by 2030 (5).
Another estimate says that by 2025, the 6-county
Portland metropolitan region will include 2.7 million
people – a 40% increase from the 2000 population.
At that point, our population will be larger than
the current metropolitan populations of St. Louis
and Baltimore and just under Seattle’s current metropolitan
population of 3.1 million.
Whatever statistics or projections one views, current
best thinking indicates that the Portland metropolitan
area will continue to grow. If this growth materializes,
we need to be ready to absorb it without compromising
the things that Portlanders have said are important
to them – housing choice and affordability, a healthy
ecosystem, an easy-to-use transportation system,
availability of good jobs and good schools and much
While Portland’s population has grown in recent
decades, the makeup of the population is changing
as well. Since the 1970s, married family households
have declined in both absolute numbers and as a
percentage of households within Portland. Several
inner city neighborhoods have seen a decline in
the percentage of families with school-aged children
as well as a decline in the overall median age of
residents between 1990 and 2000. Further, Portland
in 2000 had a smaller average household size (2.3)
than any of the region’s counties.
This means that these neighborhoods have become
attractive to young adults, single or married, who
have delayed having children or have chosen not
to have children. Elderly adults also make up a
smaller share of these neighborhood residents, as
many have retired to other communities.
Projections show that the number of households
will continue to grow, but household size will fall
and families may grow only slightly. Thus, according
to current projections, families will make up a
smaller share of the overall population in the near
As we consider the kind of city we want in the
future, we must also consider the fact that we will
be a city whose residents are older. Nationwide,
the population is aging. The U.S. Census bureau
predicts that the percentage of the population age
65 and over will increase from 12.4 percent in 2000
to 20.7 percent in 2050.
In our region, as shown in the chart below, the
over-65 population will more than double, and its
share of the population will rise from about 10
percent today to over 16 percent in 2025. Similarly,
the over-85 population will double.
Retiring Baby Boomers
These changes have important implications for business,
education and government. As the baby boom generation
ages, business and government struggle to find replacements
for workers nearing retirement and higher education
considers ways to train the current workforce to
meet these emerging needs. According to the Oregon
Employment Department, the number of workers ages
65 and older increased by 64 percent from 1992 to
2002, and the percent of workers nearing retirement
age, age 54 to 64, increased by roughly 70 percent
during that same time. Older workers are well represented
in some of the state’s largest industries, particularly
Planning for Aging
As a community, we must consider how to address
the needs of a diverse, aging population in the
way we provide services such as public transportation,
parks, and housing.
In addition to different needs, the aging population
can provide resources as they retire – nonprofits
may get a boon in the energy and experience of the
retiring baby boomers to improve our city through
volunteerism and by increasing social connectedness.
Planning for older populations can be an important
component of the community’s work in the next two
decades. Participatory processes, community involvement
and expert direction are needed to meet the needs,
as well as harness the potential, of an aging society.
of Portland Metropolitan Studies, “Metropolitan
Briefing Book 2007,” page 9.
for a Livable Future, “Regional Equity Atlas:
Metropolitan Portland’s Geography of Opportunity,”
of Portland Metropolitan Studies, “Metropolitan
Briefing Book 2007,” page 8.
Toward 2040: Portland’s Story – Presentation to
City of Portland Planning Commission, May 9, 2006.
New Look Issue Position Paper Booklet, Coming
to Grips with Growth.
Southwest Portland resident fills out a visionPDX
survey at Neighborhood House, Inc.
visionPDX grant recipients network at the visionPDX
First Thursday at City Hall in April 2006.
Here to view a chart depicting our
region's population forecast.
Here to view a chart depicting the
forcasted change in future household makeup.
Here to view an aging population projection
for the Portland metro region.
Elders in Action volunteers hit the streets to talk
to elders about visionPDX.
Korean American seniors fill out the visionPDX questionnaire
as part of the Korean American Citizens League grant.