As the last economic expansion hit its peak, the typical Oregon household’s income rose slightly in 2007 over the previous year. Yet Oregon was unable to reduce poverty or the percentage of Oregonians lacking health insurance, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau and analyzed by the Silverton-based Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP), a nonpartisan research institute.
“The typical Oregon household saw its income improve somewhat last year,” said Michael Leachman, a policy analyst with the public policy research institute, “but the household was no better off than it was at the end of the last expansion in 2000.” Leachman noted that Oregon’s median household income in 2007 was $48,730 – not meaningfully different from what it was in 2000, before the previous recession.
“When the most recent economic expansion was at its peak, the typical Oregonian made no gains,” said Leachman. Leachman noted that the typical Oregonian’s income was no better than before the last recession, and the number of people lacking health insurance was higher in real terms and in percentage terms, as well. “Today’s Census data show that Oregonians didn’t enter the current economic slowdown in great shape to weather the storm,” he added.
In 2007, poverty in Oregon stood at 12.9 percent, which means about one out of eight Oregonians was officially poor. “Oregon continues to fail in reducing its poverty rate during the good economic times,” said Joy Margheim, a policy analyst at the research center. “In this key way, the economy is failing to move Oregon forward,” she added.
Margheim called on the Governor and lawmakers to address poverty with the same vigor that they have addressed hunger and food insecurity.
“A concerted effort by the state led to significant changes in our rate of hunger and food insecurity over the last decade. It is time for the Governor to lead a similar effort to reduce poverty,” she said.
Margheim noted there is no shortage of ways Oregon can help poor families get ahead. “Policymakers can take important steps to improve economic opportunity for those struggling to make ends meet, such as raising the state earned income tax credit (EITC), improving Oregon’s unemployment insurance system so more workers are covered, strengthening our cash assistance program, expanding health insurance for working families, and making housing more affordable through smart state investments.”
“The bottom line is that Oregon needs a plan and a commitment to reduce poverty,” she concluded.
Nationally, fewer children lack health insurance, while OCPP’s analysis saw no change in the uninsurance rate among Oregon’s children. “Sadly, things still do look different here,” said Leachman. “Unlike the rest of the country we are making no headway in providing health insurance to kids and our rate of uninsurance for all Oregonians is higher than the national average,” he said.
In 2006-07, 17.3 percent of Oregonians – 649,000 individuals – lacked health insurance for a year or more, up from 12.7 percent of Oregonians in 1999-2000. About one in nine Oregon children – 103,000 kids – went without insurance for a year or more in 2006-07.
Crucial Vote in Fall May Make Matters Worse
This November, Oregon voters will be asked to approve Measure 59, which would allow an unlimited deduction of federal income taxes on state tax returns. OCPP’s executive director, Charles Sheketoff, said today’s Census numbers give more reasons why Oregonians should vote “no on 59.”
“Measure 59 would wreak havoc on the state’s efforts to address the problems identified in today’s Census figures,” said Sheketoff. “Measure 59 offers no tax break to more than three out of four Oregon taxpayers, yet all Oregonians will feel the pain caused by its hefty price tag,” said Sheketoff.
The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a non-partisan research institute that does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues. The Center’s goal is to improve decision making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians.