Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oregon's new Second City

I was reading this blog post today from blog called "Beaver Boundary" congratulating the city of Eugene for reclaiming its spot as Oregon's second largest city from the state's capital city of Salem, according to population estimates by Portland State University. According to PSU's preliminary estimates, Eugene had 153,690 residents on July 1 and Salem had 151,895.

"Kudos to the people of Eugene, who have once again saved the state of
Oregon from relative embarrassment by reclaiming its status as the
second-largest city from Salem. The populations of each city hover around
150,000, and the vibrantly crunchy Emerald City has just recently outpaced the
drab and dull Cherry City in growth. ... Even if you prefer Salem for cultural or provincial reasons, you may root for a faster-growing Eugene if your politics are left-of-center. Of course, Eugene is a liberal haven that almost always supports Democrats ...."

Forgive me, but the cultural factors are hugely important. Liberals maybe be well practices at talking a good game about issues like appreciation of other cultures, but it's not quite the same thing as true cultural/ethnic/racial diversity.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2003 population estimates, Oregon is 86.6 percent white. Salem is slightly more diverse than the state as a whole at 83.1 percent white. Portland, the state's largest city is not surprisingly more diverse than the state average at 77.9 percent white. Eugene, that bastion of liberalism, is less diverse than the state as a whole with 88.1 percent of the city's residents defined as white.

Portland's ethnic diversity comes from Latinos (6.8 percent) blacks (6.6 percent) and Asians (6.3 percent). Salem's diversity is largely because of the Latinos (14.6 percent) and 7.9 percent who report "other" ethnicity. Other races represented are Asians (2.4 percent), American Indian or native Alaskan (1.5 percent) and black (1.3 percent).

Latinos are also the largest minority in Eugene at a whopping 5 percent. The next largest group is Asian at 3.6 percent, 2.2 percent "other" races and 1.3 percent black.

White men, of which I am one, can be very empathetic or sympathetic to women and minorities, but it doesn't mean we can truly identify with the issues that are important to them. In order to have a diversity of views and ideas representing the cultural views of the state's residents and slowly growing minority population, Oregonians need to make sure minorities are at the table where and when decisions are made. This is growing increasingly important for Latinos in Oregon, as the largest minority group in the state at 8 percent of the overall population. This doesn't qualify as direct evidence, but I suspect the 2003 estimate of Salem's population being just about 15 percent Latino is low. If you want to see the future of the city, just look at the faces of the children getting on school buses any weekday morning in the city. That number will continue to rise in Salem and cities large and small throughout the state. Like it or not, immigration reform or not, the Latino train is on the roll.

As the father of a teenage daughter who has Latino heritage on her mother's side of the family, I want to make sure there are people who will not only hear her voice but seek out her and her family's opinions on the issues shaping the future of this state. Better yet, I want her and her family providing some of the leadership on those issue.

One other thing about which I would remind residents of Portland, Eugene, Salem -- or whatever city who want to play the population numbers game -- is that if you live by the numbers, you may get overwhelmed by them. The face of Oregon, whether liberal or conservative, is getting browner by the day. If Portland State's 2007 population estimate is accurate (3,745,455 Oregonians statewide) and Latinos still make up at least 8 percent of the population (and that number is probably low), then that means there are about 300,000 Latinos in the state. That's roughly equivalent to the populations of Eugene and Salem combined or more than half the population of Portland.

Oregon's new second largest community, by shear numbers, is populated by people with brown eyes and brown hair, amigos.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even if right now the city of Eugene is second largest, the Salem metro area is substantially larger in population then the Eugene-Springfield metro area.

In 2006 Salem's MSA totaled 373,336 while the Eugene-Springfield MSA was at 339,740.


It's interesting that a town is only considered "diverse" if the political climate of that town is overly liberal. No matter what the statistical racial background of that area may be.

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