Salem grew faster than Portland last year, Census data shows

Calling Salem “western Oregon’s hottest city” might be overstating it. 

But Oregon’s capital grew by 2,369 people in 2017, Census Bureau data released Thursday shows. That’s a growth rate of 1.4 percent over 2016, putting Salem slightly ahead of both Portland and Eugene. 

Portland proper grew by about 1.3 percent in the same time, while the metropolitan area, which includes Vancouver and Hillsboro, grew about 1 percent, to 2.45 million people. 

Bend, meanwhile, added about 3,400 people, growing 3.7 percent. 

Some 169,790 people now call Salem home. 

Salem’s age distribution stayed about the same. But its gender split flipped, going from 48 percent male in 2016 to 52 percent in 2017. 

The city also appears to be getting less white, though the way the Census collects data makes it difficult to tell. 

The city’s Hispanic and Latino population grew from 37,849 people in 2016 to 41,844 last year, a growth of about 10.5 percent.  

But both estimates have a high margin of error, meaning the actual number of Latinos in Salem could be different by about 5,000 people. Because of that, the Census says the change isn’t statistically significant, meaning it’s possible the estimates are different due to random chance, rather than an actual population change. 

Though they make up a much smaller percentage of the city, Salem’s black population grew significantly, from about 1.2 percent of the population to 3.3 percent. And the native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population also grew, from about 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent. 

Who’s coming to Salem? 

About 7,700 people moved to Salem from another county in Oregon. Another 4,800 moved from another state, and 1,300 from abroad. 

With a few thousand extra bodies, you’d expect commutes to get worse, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  

If anything, Salemites appear to be spending a little less time in the car. 

Just over half of Salem workers commute less than 20 minutes, and that number didn’t change much. But within that group, workers reporting 10-14 minute commutes grew, while those with 15-19 minute commutes shrunk. 

For people driving long distances, it’s harder to tell a clear story.  

The number of people commuting for longer than 90 minutes shrunk, as did people commuting 45 minutes to an hour. 

But the block in the middle – hour to hour-and-a-half commutes – grew to about 4,000 people. 

All those changes are within the margin of error, so they could be nothing more than bit of statistical noise. 

Another thing that hasn’t changed? Most Salem residents – about 79 percent – drive alone to work, and another 10 percent carpool. About 3 percent of people walked, and another 3 percent took public transit, while 5 percent worked from home. 

Cyclists, motorcyclists and people taking taxis to work make up the rest. 

What kind of data would you like to see about Salem? Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241

Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.