People are leaving seven Oregon towns as quickly as possible

Oregon entered the pandemic with pronounced income inequality. In 2019, the top 1% of Oregonians earned more than the bottom half combined. This disparity has only intensified, with the top 1% seeing their incomes skyrocket compared to 1980 levels.

Economic inequality affects all demographics, exacerbating social challenges and impacting the quality of life across various communities​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

Specific Towns Facing Outmigration

  • Portland: Despite being Oregon’s largest city, Portland faces issues like violent protests, rising crime rates, homelessness, and high living costs, driving many to seek safer, more affordable living elsewhere​​.
  • Medford: Known for high violent crime rates, poverty, and low educational attainment, Medford is losing residents seeking better opportunities​​.
  • Coos Bay: Economic stagnation due to the decline of timber and fishing industries, coupled with high unemployment and poverty rates, are primary reasons for its declining population​​.
  • Klamath Falls: Severe air pollution, high crime and poverty rates, and low median income are pushing residents out despite its natural beauty​​.
  • Ontario: Struggles with high crime and poverty rates and has been particularly hit hard by COVID-19, leading to an exodus​​.
  • Burns: This remote and isolated town suffers from limited economic opportunities and high unemployment​​.
  • Roseburg: High crime and poverty rates, coupled with being the county with the highest suicide rate and lowest life expectancy in Oregon, are driving its residents away​​.

Environmental Issues and Their Economic Impact

Water Contamination and Logging

Oregon’s rural communities have faced substantial costs due to water contamination from industrial logging activities. The state’s failure to protect watersheds from logging-related contamination has led to millions in additional costs for clean, safe drinking water.

Over 170 public water systems have been identified at risk due to clear-cutting, road building, and pesticide spraying​​​​​​​​.

The Broader Picture

In 2022, Oregon experienced a population decline, a significant shift from its usual growth trend. This was particularly notable in Multnomah County, with the exodus encompassing a diverse range of demographics. High crime, cost of living, taxes, and homelessness crisis in Portland have been major contributors to this trend.

Statewide, the departure affected all income groups and demographics, signaling widespread dissatisfaction across various sectors of society​​.


Oregon, facing a myriad of challenges across its towns, stands at a crossroads. While these towns have the potential to overcome their difficulties with effective planning, investment, and leadership, the current trend of outmigration highlights the urgent need for systemic changes. Addressing income inequality, environmental degradation, and social issues is crucial for these communities to not only survive but thrive in the future.

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