County in-migration and out-migration trends are tracked by the IRS, with tax returns serving as a proxy for the number of households. While any such singular tracking method may miss families and individuals that do not file taxes, it does provide some small insight into changes in county populations, and even economic health. While numerous other factors beyond in or out-migration are needed to fully understand a county’s economic wellbeing, whether or not there is enough of a working age population available from year to year to sustain local industry is a fairly reliable indicator.

We can see a stark difference in migration patterns between two of Oregon’s counties below:

Washington-County Migration Data


Harney-County Migration Data - Internet Explorer

While Washington County saw the rate of in-migration growth increase from 2011 to 2014, Harney County saw a fairly sizable net loss in the number of filed tax returns in that same period. The data available may not tell us why such a pattern is evident. It may point to other indicators (such as changes in local industry) that can, however.

Interested in comparing your home county to its neighbors? Checking out the original post over at!