City Cast

What’s the Deal With Portland’s Shrinking?

Rachel Monahan
Posted on May 22   |   Updated on June 6
aerial view of river with bridges

Portland has seen its population decline since the pandemic began (albergman/Getty Images)

Portland ranked 6th among the fastest-shrinking big cities in the U.S. in the two years between July 2020 and July 2022. Last year, Portland saw the fourth-fastest decline in population behind only New York, Philadelphia, and Oakland. Even Detroit saw a (slightly) slower decline.

It only underlines the decline that Seattle, our bigger rival city to the north, was the fastest-growing big city in the country for the most recent year of data. But Seattle was the exception in some ways; the next 15 fastest-growing cities were all in the Sunbelt.

What are the local trends?

The possibly good news is that Portland’s decline slowed last year.

And, for better or worse, Portland has company: Gresham, West Linn, and Lake Oswego all shrank, and they did so faster last year. By contrast, the three fastest-growing cities in the region were farther afield: Ridgefield, Wash. (+32%), Estacada (+18%), and Cornelius (+13%).

Why do experts worry over population declines?

With population declines, businesses can start to struggle and close, meaning fewer amenities. It also can mean less tax revenue for governments and therefore fewer services. The decline so far (2.8% for Portland, or 18,200 people) is relatively small but could become more of an issue if the trend continues.

Correction: In Portland, plastic that can be recycled goes in the blue bin. You may have noticed that correctly illustrated in the photo last week, but it’s not what I said in the text. Thanks to readers who noted the misstatement, and my apologies for it.

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