Salem is a city located in Marion County and Polk County Oregon. It is also the county seat of Marion County. With a 2023 population of 181,620, it is the 2nd largest city in Oregon and the 144th largest city in the United States.Salem is currently growing at a rate of 1.09% annually and its population has increased by 3.31% since the most recent census, which recorded a population of 175,806 in 2020. Spanning over 49 miles, Salem has a population density of 3,730 people per square mile.
The average household income in Salem is $73,609 with a poverty rate of 18.14%. The median rental costs in recent years comes to - per month, and the median house value is -. The median age in Salem is 35.9 years, 34.5 years for males, and 37.2 years for females.
The city’s top employer is the State of Oregon, which provides over 21,000 jobs. The Salem-Keizer School District, Salem Health, Chemeketa Community College and Marion County are other top employers in Salem, each providing thousands of jobs to residents.
Salem Population Growth
Salem has seen continuous and steady growth since its founding. By 1900, the population exceeded 4,000 people. At the time of the next census in 1910, this number had risen to over 14,000 and had almost doubled just 20 years later. In 1970, the population reached over 68,0000 and in 1990 surpassed 100,000. Recent estimates show that the current population count is up 8.3% since the last census was taken in 2010, indicating that this city will continue to see steady growth well into its future.
Salem has been inhabited for over 10,000 years, according to estimates. When the Europeans first arrived at the land that is now Salem, the Kalapuya people occupied the area. The region was known initially as Chim-i-ki-ti until the Methodist Mission came to the city and named it Chemeketa. After the establishment of the Oregon Institute, it was merely called the Institute.
After the dissolution of the Institute, a townsite was laid out by trustees. The town name selected was Salem, although some wanted it to remain Chemeketa. When the territorial capital was moved from Oregon City in 1851, Salem became the new capital until 1855, when it was moved again to Corvallis. However, later that year, Salem was named as the capital again. Salem was incorporated as a city just two years later and before the end of the decade was designated as the state capital.
Salem’s first capitol building was erected in 1855 but burned down just two months later. Another capitol building was developed in 1876 but also burned down in 1935. The third capitol building, which is still in use today, was completed in 1938.
The city’s economy initially revolved around agriculture, which remains vital to the marketplace today. Specifically, Salem has had a thriving cherry-growing industry which gave it the nickname “Cherry City.” The city was selected as the site of the Oregon State Fair and the annual cherry festival. Today, the city is a major food processing center and is home to Kettle Foods, NORPAC Foods and Oregon Fruit Products, Inc.
The city is also home to many universities and other higher education institutes, including Willamette University and Corban University. The largest employer in Salem is the state government, although as previously mentioned agriculture is still critical to the economy. In the 1990s, tech manufacturing plants made their way to the city. Today, Salem has taken on multiple projects to increase housing in the downtown area as well as to add office space to the growing city.