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Population hits 4 million in Oregon

PORTLAND — New estimates from Portland State University say Oregon gained its 4-millionth resident this year.

"Reaching 4 million this year indicates our economy is more than OK," Risa Proehl, a Portland State population expert who worked on the estimates, told The Oregonian. "It means that our state is attractive to people."

The last such major milestone was in the early 1990s, when Oregon was growing at rates it hasn't seen since. The state hit 3 million people in 1993, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

The university's Population Research Center estimates that 4,013,845 people lived in Oregon as of July 1.

According to Proehl, a robust and healthy economy is driving the population growth. About 80 percent of the 2015 increase was from migration, she said, and the remaining increase was caused by more people being born than dying.

Just four years ago, during the Great Recession, the population increase was just half a percent -- the smallest in 25 years. But the overall growth rate for 2015 was 1.3 percent.

Oregon's natural growth -- the rate of people being born versus that of people dying -- has been decreasing for some time, according to state demographer Kanhaiya Vaidya. Recently, births have outpaced deaths each year in Oregon, but Vaidya said there will be a day when the state will depend entirely on migration for population growth.

Babies aren't being born at sufficient rates to make up for the fact that their parents will one day die. To sustain itself, the population needs an average of 2.1 babies born per woman. Oregon has had a fertility rate lower than that since at least 2000, according to Proehl.

The baby boomer generation isn't getting any younger, she added.

Vaidya says the balance will tip in 2040, with more Oregonians dying each year than are born.

PSU and stat estimates say the state's population is expected to hit 5 million in the 2030s.