After Portland, Which Oregon City Is The Largest?

May 25, 2018

With roughly 648,000 people, Portland stands as the undisputed big city in Oregon. But the runner-up isn’t as clear. As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, one researcher says Eugene beats Salem as second-largest city by a decent margin.

Oregon cities Portland (top), Salem (bottom left), and Eugene (bottom right).
Credit Ian Sane, Oregon DOT, and Maciek Lulko /

If you go by U.S. Census population data, the winner is Salem.  The state capital has 882 more people than Eugene.

But Portland State University’s Population Research Center flips that ranking, giving Eugene 4,300 more residents.

Charles Rynerson is a researcher with the Center.

“Where the difference is, is in the estimates for Salem," says Charles Rynerson, a researcher with the Center. "Whereas we’re showing 9,000 for Salem, Census Bureau shows more than 15,000.  I looked into the housing stock change and Eugene actually has added more housing units since 2010 than Salem.”

Rynerson says Lane County has increased jobs, and the University of Oregon has done well enrolling students. But he says Lane County is now seeing “negative natural increase” meaning there’s more deaths than births. Sustained growth will likely rely on “in-migration” – or people moving into the state.

Copyright 2018, KLCC.