Jul 14, 2023 - News

How Portland's racial demographics have changed

Portland metro area population
Data: U.S. Census; Note: Estimates include people reporting one race alone; Hispanic people are also included in other categories, as they may be of any race; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population saw the biggest percentage increase compared to other racial or ethnic groups between 2000 and 2022 in the Portland area — rising 168% to 16,500 — per a new analysis of Census estimates.

  • The metro area's multiracial population also more than doubled in that time period, along with the Hispanic and Asian populations.

Why it matters: This kind of demographic data is a vital snapshot of how the area's racial and ethnic makeup is changing over time, helping to inform policies and programs across the region.

  • While white people still make up the vast majority of the Portland area, that population saw the lowest percentage increase over the past 22 years.

Quick take: The growth in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations parallels cultural and political advances, like the expansion of Aloha Days in Vancouver.

  • The Oregon Legislature also approved a new statewide effort this year to help Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders succeed in school, similar to what was already in place for some other ethnic groups.

By the numbers: The number of people in the metro area identifying as two or more races grew 157% between 2000 and 2022, to nearly 120,000.

  • The Hispanic population — of any race — grew about 131% in the same period, to over 330,000.
  • And the Asian population grew just over 117%, to nearly 200,000.

What they're saying: Marchel Marcos, who grew up in Hawaii and is now political director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, tells Axios many Pacific Islanders first come here for college.

  • "The universities in Oregon do heavy football and academic recruitment in Hawaii," Marcos told Axios, saying that many college students "decide to stay here."
  • The cost of living also plays a role. "Even though folks that have been here a while are talking about how much it's increased, it's significantly lower than the cost of living in Hawaii," she said.

The big picture: Nationwide, the country's Pacific Islander, Asian and Hispanic populations also saw the biggest percentage increases between 2000 and 2022.

Of note: The U.S. is still predominantly white, with growth of 19% between 2000 and 2022, to nearly 252 million.

Meanwhile: The country is also rapidly aging, Axios' Emily Peck recently reported, with the median age reaching a record 38.9 last year.

  • Oregon's median age is higher — 40.3 — and we're now the oldest continental U.S. state west of the Mississippi.
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