Portland (/ˈpɔːrtlənd/; PORT-lənd), officially the City of Portland, is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. As of 2018, Portland had an estimated population of 653,115, making it the 25th most populated city in the United States, and the second-most populous in the Pacific Northwest after Seattle. Approximately 2.4 million people live in the Portland metropolitan statistical area (MSA), making it the 25th most populous in the United States. Its combined statistical area (CSA) ranks 19th-largest with a population of around 3.2 million. Approximately 60% of Oregon’s population resides within the Portland metropolitan area.
Portland is 60 miles (97 km) east of the Pacific Ocean at the northern end of Oregon’s most populated region, the Willamette Valley. Downtown Portland straddles the banks of the Willamette River, which flows north through the city center and separates the city’s east and west neighborhoods. Less than 10 miles (16 km) from downtown, the Willamette River flows into the Columbia River, the fourth-largest river in the United States, which divides Oregon from Washington state. Portland is approximately 100 miles (160 km) upriver from the Pacific Ocean on the Columbia.
Though much of downtown Portland is relatively flat, the foothills of the Tualatin Mountains, more commonly referred to locally as the “West Hills”, pierce through the northwest and southwest reaches of the city. Council Crest Park, commonly thought of as the highest point within city limits, is in the West Hills and rises to an elevation of 1,073 feet (327 m) The city’s actual high point is a little-known and infrequently accessed point of 1,180 feet (360 m) near Forest Park. The highest point east of the river is Mt. Tabor, an extinct volcanic cinder cone, which rises to 636 feet (194 m). Nearby Powell Butte and Rocky Butte rise to 614 feet (187 m) and 612 feet (187 m), respectively. To the west of the Tualatin Mountains lies the Oregon Coast Range, and to the east lies the actively volcanic Cascade Range. On clear days, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens dominate the horizon, while Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier can also be seen in the distance.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 145.09 square miles (375.78 km), of which 133.43 square miles (345.58 km) is land and 11.66 square miles (30.20 km) is water. Although almost all of Portland is within Multnomah County, small portions of the city are within Clackamas and Washington Counties, with populations estimated at 785 and 1,455, respectively.
The 2010 census reported the city as 76.1% White (444,254 people), 7.1% Asian (41,448), 6.3% Black or African American (36,778), 1.0% Native American (5,838), 0.5% Pacific Islander (2,919), 4.7% belonging to two or more racial groups (24,437) and 5.0% from other races (28,987). 9.4% were Hispanic or Latino, of any race (54,840). Whites not of Hispanic origin made up 72.2% of the total population.
In 1940, Portland’s African-American population was approximately 2,000 and largely consisted of railroad employees and their families. During the war-time Liberty Ship construction boom, the need for workers drew many blacks to the city. The new influx of blacks settled in specific neighborhoods, such as the Albina district and Vanport. The May 1948 flood which destroyed Vanport eliminated the only integrated neighborhood, and an influx of blacks into the northeast quadrant of the city continued. Portland’s longshoremen racial mix was described as being “lily-white” in the 1960s, when the local International Longshore and Warehouse Union declined to represent grain handlers since some were black.
At 6.3%, Portland’s African American population is three times the state average. Over two thirds of Oregon’s African-American residents live in Portland. As of the 2000 census, three of its high schools (Cleveland, Lincoln and Wilson) were over 70% white, reflecting the overall population, while Jefferson High School was 87% non-white. The remaining six schools have a higher number of non-whites, including blacks and Asians. Hispanic students average from 3.3% at Wilson to 31% at Roosevelt.
Portland residents identifying solely as Asian Americans account for 7.1% of the population; an additional 1.8% is partially of Asian heritage. Vietnamese Americans make up 2.2% of Portland’s population, and make up the largest Asian ethnic group in the city, followed by Chinese (1.7%), Filipinos (0.6%), Japanese (0.5%), Koreans (0.4%), Laotians (0.4%), Hmong (0.2%), and Cambodians (0.1%). A small population of Yao people live in Portland. Portland has two Chinatowns, with New Chinatown along SE 82nd Avenue with Chinese supermarkets, Hong Kong style noodle houses, dim sum, and Vietnamese phở restaurants.
With about 12,000 Vietnamese residing in the city proper, Portland has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in America per capita. According to statistics there are 21,000 Pacific Islanders in Portland, making up 4% of the population.
Portland’s population has been and remains predominantly white. In 1940, whites were over 98% of the city’s population. In 2009, Portland had the fifth-highest percentage of white residents among the 40 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. A 2007 survey of the 40 largest cities in the U.S. concluded Portland’s urban core has the highest percentage of white residents. Some scholars have noted the Pacific Northwest as a whole is “one of the last Caucasian bastions of the United States”. While Portland’s diversity was historically comparable to metro Seattle and Salt Lake City, those areas grew more diverse in the late 1990s and 2000s. Portland not only remains white, but migration to Portland is disproportionately white.
The Oregon Territory banned African American settlement in 1849. In the 19th century, certain laws allowed the immigration of Chinese laborers but prohibited them from owning property or bringing their families. The early 1920s saw the rapid growth of the Ku Klux Klan, which became very influential in Oregon politics, culminating in the election of Walter M. Pierce as governor.
The largest influxes of minority populations occurred during World War II, as the African American population grew by a factor of 10 for wartime work. After World War II, the Vanport flood in 1948 displaced many African Americans. As they resettled, redlining directed the displaced workers from the wartime settlement to neighboring Albina. There and elsewhere in Portland, they experienced police hostility, lack of employment, and mortgage discrimination, leading to half the black population leaving after the war.
In the 1980s and 1990s, radical skinhead groups flourished in Portland. In 1988, Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian immigrant, was killed by three skinheads. The response to his murder involved a community-driven series of rallies, campaigns, nonprofits and events designed to address Portland’s racial history, leading to a city considered significantly more tolerant than in 1988 at Seraw’s death.
As of the 2010 census, there are 583,776 people residing in the city, organized into 235,508 households. The population density is 4,375.2 people per square mile. There are 265,439 housing units at an average density of 1989.4 per square mile (1,236.3/km²). Population growth in Portland increased 10.3% between 2000 and 2010. Population growth in the Portland metropolitan area has outpaced the national average during the last decade, and this is expected to continue over the next 50 years.
Out of 223,737 households, 24.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.1% are married couples living together, 10.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 47.1% are non-families. 34.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.3 and the average family size is 3. The age distribution was 21.1% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 34.7% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years. For every 100 females, there are 97.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 95.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $40,146, and the median income for a family is $50,271. Males have a reported median income of $35,279 versus $29,344 reported for females. The per capita income for the city is $22,643. 13.1% of the population and 8.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.7% of those under the age of 18 and 10.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line. Figures delineating the income levels based on race are not available at this time. According to the Modern Language Association, in 2010 80.92% (539,885) percent of Multnomah County residents ages 5 and over spoke English as their primary language at home. 8.10% of the population spoke Spanish (54,036), with Vietnamese speakers making up 1.94%, and Russian 1.46%.
The Portland metropolitan area has historically had a significant LGBT population throughout the late 20th and 21st century. In 2015, the city metro had the second highest percentage of LGBT residents in the United States with 5.4% of residents identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, second only to San Francisco. In 2006, it was reported to have the seventh highest LGBT population in the country, with 8.8% of residents identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and the metro ranking fourth in the nation at 6.1%. The city held its first pride festival in 1975 on the Portland State University campus.
Portland has been cited as the least religious city in the United States, with over 42% of residents identifying as religiously “unaffiliated”, according to the nonpartisan and nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Atlas. Of the 35.89% of the city’s residents who do identify as religious, Roman Catholics make up the largest group, at 15.8%. The second highest religious group in the city are Evangelical Christians at 6.04%, with Baptists following behind at 2.5%. Latter Day Saints make up 2.3% of the city’s religiously affiliated population, with Lutheran and Pentecostal following behind. 1.48% of religiously affiliated persons identified themselves as following Eastern religions, while 0.86% of the religiously affiliated population identified as Jewish, and 0.29% as Muslim.