The U.S. Census Bureau released new data today on the extent of poverty and on the change in household median income in Oregon and the nation. There is “no good news for Oregon,” according to an analysis by the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP), a non-profit research institute in Silverton.
While economists have declared that the national recession has ended, people in Oregon and around the country still don’t see much improvement in their ability to meet household needs. The new Census data shows that median household income in Oregon declined between 2000-01 and 2001-02. While the poverty rate remained unchanged at 11.3 percent, continued population growth means Oregon had an increasing number of poor residents.
Oregon’s median household income dropped $1,289 between 2000-01 and 2001-02, falling to $41,816. Oregon was one of 38 states where the estimate for median household income declined, and one of 12 states where the decrease was statistically significant. Nationally, median household income fell $720.
Oregon’s poverty rate, at 11.3 percent, remained unchanged between 2000-01 and 2001-02. However, the number of poor Oregonians rose by 5,000, climbing to 395,000 in 2001-02, according to OCPP estimates. Nationally, the poverty rate rose 0.4 percent, to 11.9 percent, while the number of poor rose by 1.7 million. Poverty rate estimates rose in 39 states, and in 9 states the increase was statistically significant.
“Households in Oregon and around the country continue to suffer under the current economy,” said Jeff Thompson, economist and policy analyst with the Oregon Center for Public Policy. “A considerable share of the income growth from the 1990s was wiped out in the economic downturn plaguing Oregon and the nation since 2001.”
“Oregon’s economy depends on the national economy, and can’t be expected to start generating jobs and income growth until there is a serious change in direction at the national level,” said Thompson. “The new Census data are further evidence of the failure of the ‘tax cuts for the rich at any cost’ approach favored by the Bush Administration.”
The rising number of poor Oregonians is especially troubling in the face of Oregon’s revenue shortfall and because of budget cuts in programs serving low-income households.
“Oregon’s safety net has taken a beating in the last few years, and things will get substantially worse if anti-government activists succeed in overturning the Legislature’s revenue package,” said Charles Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. “With increasing numbers of poor Oregonians, it is unacceptable for the state to make further cuts to programs that these families rely upon.”
“Nowhere is this situation more clear than the Oregon Health Plan,” noted Sheketoff. “Jobless and low-income Oregonians need the OHP more than ever. Unfortunately, because of funding cuts, service cuts, and rising fees, doctors are refusing to serve low-income families and families are dropping out of the plan altogether.”
The annual Census survey used to estimate the poverty rate and median income for Oregon is based on approximately 1,000 households statewide. Census and the Oregon Center for Public Policy use two-year averages of the Census statewide data to provide more reliable figures.
The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a Silverton, Oregon-based non-profit research institute that uses research and analysis to advance policies and practices that improve the economic and social prospects of low- and moderate-income Oregonians, the majority of Oregonians.