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Statewide report assesses well being of Oregon's 36 counties; Yamhill County continues to grow

BY JACKS WHITEHURST

Newberg Graphic Intern

The Ford Family Foundation and the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service recently collaborated to produce a broad report of Oregon's population measures — broken down by county — to help leaders understand the realities of their respective communities. The report, published in May, is headlined: "Oregon by the Numbers."

It derives its name from its intended purpose, which is to assign accurate numerical values to six different societal measures of progress: demographic, social, education, economic, health and infrastructure. The aim of the report is to ask the question: "What are the essential measures that all Oregon decision makers should be able to immediately access for their community?"

The 130-page report is designed to display data that is readily accessible to youth and adults alike. Whenever possible, county-level values are compared with state, rural Oregon and urban Oregon.

According to the foundation, 26 of the 36 counties in Oregon are considered exclusively rural —which, according to the report, is any place less than 500 people per square mile in a populated area and has the "feel, culture, community connection, or interdependence" of a rural community.

In long form, the six measures revealed some surprising facts about Yamhill and the state's other 35 counties:

Demographic: When compared to the total Oregon state population at nearly 4 million, Yamhill County ranks tenth at 102,217 and includes a rural population of 23 percent. The median income is $54,951, compared to the state's $53,270. The federally recognized tribes that have services or associated lands in Yamhill County are the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde, and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz. The top two race/ethnicity groups are white (78 percent) and Latino (15.4 percent).

Social: Food insecurity, which the report defines as those who have limited access to adequate food, is 1 percent less in Yamhill County than that of Oregon at 13 percent. Voter participation is 81 percent.

Education: There was no data assessed in higher-education for Yamhill County because the report only collected numbers from public institutions. However, the report does show that the high school graduation rate is at 81 percent, compared to Oregon's 75 percent.

Economy: The unemployment rate of both Yamhill County and the state is at 5 percent. The labor force participation rate for those over 16 years old is at 60 percent. Notably in this category, Yamhill County ranks 35th in job growth. According to the report, "Job growth serves as an essential measure of economic vitality and tracks closely with productivity."

Health: All measures in this category -- including physically active adults, smoking, diet, vaccinations and low weight births -- are on an upward trend. Most notably, 76 percent of 2 year-olds are receiving vaccinations and 22 percent of adults maintain a healthy diet.

Infrastructure: 81 percent of county residents have broadband access, compared to the average of the entire state at 91 percent. More than 48 percent of residents use public transportation. Primarily due to the agricultural industry in Yamhill County, 41 percent of the county is developed or cultivated land, compared to the state's 11 percent.

Mary Starrett, chairwoman of the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners, said she has been looking over the report since its release. When asked which of the categories were most concerning she commented on the lack of skilled trades people, saying that it was likely due to the message that everyone has to go to college.

"I think efforts made by the county, schools, local companies and internship programs … have been effective," she said in an email. "By increasing our emphasis on CTE (career and technical education) in schools we are helping address the lack of qualified employees available for hire."

Compared to the rest of the state, Starrett singled out Yamhill County for its excellence in a few areas.

"Yamhill County has historically been quick to respond to the needs of community members," she said. Specifically, she mentioned that the Health and Human Services and Community Justice Department are performing better on a county level than what the state is doing currently. "Contracted work with groups like Provoking Hope and Lutheran Community Services is helping recovering addicts by matching those who are themselves in recovery with those seeking a way out of their addictions. … Instead of incarcerating addicts we offer support services, family counseling and housing. These programs work."

To explore more data topics by state, county and city using interactive software, visit http://oe.oregonexplorer.info/rural/CommunitiesReporter/. To read the full report and see more statistics for Yamhill County, download a free PDF version at https://bit.ly/2Nj65o8.

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