Prosperity in Perspective

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Prosperity in Perspective

InsideCapitolDome

Prosperity in Perspective

The State of Working Oregon 2000

Executive Summary

Most Oregonians have benefited from the last few years of economic expansion. Incomes and wages are up, and unemployment has remained relatively low.

Using a wide range of economic data, Prosperity in Perspective: The State of Working Oregon 2000 documents that, while the economic expansion of the late 1990s helped many working Oregonians, it did not reverse the hard times of the 1980s and early 1990s. In an economy thought to be “as good as it gets,” many working people have simply been left out.

Download a copy of the full report: Prosperity in Perspective: The State of Working Oregon 2000 (PDF)

When examined against the experience of the last three decades, Oregon’s current expansion leaves much to be desired. The expansion of the late 1990s failed to overturn many long-term changes in Oregon’s economy that have damaged the ability of most working people to benefit fully from economic growth. The report examines trends in wages, income, poverty, hours of work, health insurance coverage, hunger, housing affordability, and tax burdens.

The report’s major findings include:

  • Despite gains in the late 1990s, the wages and incomes of Oregon workers show no improvement over ten and twenty years ago. Wages are still lower than during previous expansions. In 1999, Oregon’s median hourly wage of $11.98 was still two percent lower than in 1989 and nine percent lower than in 1979. Income has risen since 1997 for households and for four-person families, but only to the levels of the late-1970s and late-1980s. Moreover, Oregon’s working households have had to work additional hours to maintain steady incomes.
  • The poverty rate among working families with children increased substantially over the 1990s, despite increases to Oregon’s minimum wage. By the late 1990s, one in seven working families with children in the state lived in poverty. More than one in nine of all working households in Oregon were not always sure of being able to meet their food needs.
  • Growing income inequality has channeled the benefits of economic growth into the hands of fewer and fewer Oregonians. Over the last two decades, incomes of the most affluent Oregonians grew more than 50 percent while middle income families stagnated and low income families fell behind. The share of income going to upper income households grew from 38 percent in the late 1970s to 48 percent in the late 1990s.

Prosperity in Perspective: The State of Working Oregon 2000 also contains a great deal of data on other issues that are important to the well-being of workers in Oregon:

  • Housing became much less affordable, as home price inflation grew twice as fast as incomes from the mid-1980s through the 1990s.
  • Despite the emergence and rapid growth of the high tech industry, Oregon’s economy is increasingly comprised of low-paying jobs. Thirty-five percent of jobs in Oregon were classified as “low-paying” in 1998, up from only 30 percent in 1978.
  • Partly because of the Oregon Health Plan, health insurance coverage in Oregon expanded over the 1990s. Since 1996, however, uninsurance has remained at 12 percent for non-elderly Oregonians. A smaller share of Oregonians receive employer-provided coverage than ten years ago.
  • The burden of taxation remained constant in Oregon over the last twenty years. In 1998, six percent of total personal income was required to finance public goods and services through household property and income taxes.

Prosperity in Perspective: The State of Working Oregon 2000 is a detailed story about the status of individuals and families working in Oregon. It is designed to stimulate public discussion and to encourage the reader to take action and to make informed decisions. It is meant to be a resource today, Labor Day 2000, and over the months ahead. As Oregon voters consider their choices on the ballot this fall, and as legislators consider policies during the 2001 legislative session, Prosperity in Perspective: The State of Working Oregon 2000 will be a useful resource helping to inform a variety of public policy debates.

OCPP

OCPP

Written by staff at the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

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