According to Josh Lehner, a state economist, within the next five years there will be more Oregonians dying each year than new ones being born.
Lehner, who examined Oregon demographics in a series of reports last spring, anticipates births and deaths will be equal in 2024, with deaths subsequently exceeding births. The reason for this decline in births and rise in deaths is not surprising. People are postponing marriage, and the older population is dying off.
Oregon also has a higher than average death rate among the younger population, a problem in other states as well. Two Princeton economists dubbed these “deaths of despair,” which means untimely deaths caused by alcohol abuse, drug overdoses, and suicide.
“The increase in the number of deaths that are not due to an aging population has a big impact on the economic and demographic data that our office uses,” Lehner wrote.
According to Lehner , these “deaths of despair” account for up to 50% of all deaths in certain age categories. The percentage of which has doubled in the past 15 years. The rate of these deaths is no longer rising, which Lehner said is due to fewer drug overdoses. However, this rate could be troublesome for the economy.
Lehner forecasts the rise in deaths will cause great economic repercussions for Oregon.
“Demographics are already weighing on the economy quite a bit and will continue to do so in the decade ahead,” Lehner wrote. “Continued low birthrates will weigh on growth further into the middle of the century.”
Oregon depends on a growing population for economic growth; without this, Oregon will become more reliant on migration, and Lehner warns it may become harder to get people to migrate if Oregon is at risk for recessions and has high housing prices—both products of the lack of economic growth.