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Making Population Data Available to Everyone: the Population Research Center
Making Population Data Available to Everyone: the Population Research Center

While writing the Constitution, the Founders resolved: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union according to their respective Numbers.” This proclamation, from of Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, necessitated the addition of an “Enumeration” of the population to be conducted every ten years. The Census, as it came to be called after the Census Act of 1840, is a method for calculating US population numbers in order to determine the number of Representatives to the House each state has and how taxes are apportioned to the states, but it’s also a method for collecting demographic and geographic information that when seen through the lens of demographics can paint pictures of what we the people of the U.S. look like at a specific point in time and in the hands of demographers can be used to help predict what we might look like in the future.

In Oregon the Population Research Center  (PRC) at Portland State University is tasked with providing Oregonians the State’s census data and the Center’s expert staff are uniquely equipped to prepare population estimates, analysis, reports, consultation services and education. The PRC was created in 1956 to conduct annual state mandated estimations of populations for Oregon’s cities and counties; the Center moved to PSU in 1965. Today it’s PRC’s mission to provide population data, information, and research analysis for Oregon and its communities.

In a statement welcoming visitors to PRC’s website, Dr. Jason Jurjevich, Assistant Director, PRC, writes: “Our goal is to make census and other demographic information easily accessible to Oregonians and to provide timely, accurate, and relevant analyses of demographic related issues faced by the state of Oregon.” The Center’s website is the hub for the population information the Center houses.

“The primary impetus for the Center’s creation was the population estimates program,” Dr. Jurjevich said. “On July 1st of every year we issue a report estimating the populations of all of Oregon’s counties and cities.” The annual population estimates conducted by the Center offers state and local governments as well, as other organization and agencies, key information used in revenue planning, revenue sharing, and funds allocation. The estimates track information such as: state-wide annual population changes over a 50 year period, population estimates of Oregon by measures that include incorporated, unincorporated, metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, counties, cities and town, births, deaths, age and migration.

While the Center offers the information contained within the annual population estimates it conducts, it is also hosts the Oregon Census State Data Center. The State Data Center Program (SDC) makes Oregon census data available to anyone interested and it also offers applied research, consulting services, and customized tabulations, what it calls “demographic portraits,” that can be of use to local and regional communities, state agencies and planners. In the past PRC has provided consulting services to agencies such as Portland Public Schools, ODOT, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, and various organizations that worked on political redistricting.

“Because we host the State Data Center,” Dr. Jurjevich said, “we have census experts here at PSU that are really well-versed in census data and the limitations of census data. From a research perspective, having these experts here is invaluable.”

Providing annual population estimates, consulting services, and hosting the State Data Center allows the PRC to offer PSU graduate students a Master of Urban Studies (M.U.S.) degree with a concentration in applied demography. “Students have the chance to work with PRC staff on demographics-related projects,” Dr. Jurjevich said. “This provides them real-world experience, and PSU is the only university in the state that offers training in applied demography and applied population analysis.”

Aside from its focuses on population estimates, hosting the State Data Center, reporting, analysis, consultation and education, the PRC also works closely with the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies where on websites such as the Greater Portland Pulse and the Metropolitan Knowledge Network anyone can read about population data trends in provocative data stories and articles that bring the information to life.

“This is a huge resource for people here in the metro region and people state-wide,” Dr. Jurjevich said. “We welcome you to our website and hope you will find its products and services useful.”