Home sales around Salem saw a 41 percent jump last month.

Home sales around Salem saw a 41 percent jump last month.

Robert Fairchild/Flickr

Californians are an easy target in Oregon. They’re blamed for rising home prices and rents, and for more cars on the road. They even get knocked for changing Oregon’s culture. But reports by state economists paint a more complicated picture. In fact, they point to some of the benefits of out-of-state migrant, whether from California or elsewhere.

“Overall, in-migration is a good thing for Oregon,” said Josh Lehner, a senior economist at the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, on OPB’s daily talk show, Think Out Loud. “People have been moving here for 200 years ever since the days of Lewis and Clark. It’s a positive thing for Oregon’s economy.”

Somewhere between a third and a half of all the domestic migrants coming to Oregon are traveling up from California, but “placing the blame at the feet of these new migrants for things like rising home costs is a little bit misguided,” said Lehner.

Demand does drive up cost, but Lehner said another big issue is supply: There just isn’t enough housing out there:

“Those 25 to 30,000 migrants moving into Oregon every year… that’s continuing. So we need to make sure that we’re able to have enough housing supply to house them. And the more supply and new construction we see, that will be what tempers down the growth in terms of appreciation of prices.”

Even though the economy in much of rural Oregon is lacking, said Lehner, new migrants are voting with their feet: they’re finding jobs and staying put.

“They’re college educated, they’re moving here, setting up their careers, setting up their life and building families,” he said. “And that’s really the gold standard for economic growth: having a bunch of young smart people and keeping them.”