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Oregon's Poverty Increase Underscores Need for Action

News Release
September 13, 2011 Download PDF

Statement by OCPP executive director Chuck Sheketoff

Today’s U.S. Census data release, showing a significant increase in the share of Oregonians living in poverty, underscores the need for a robust jobs program and greater investment in the public structures that protect the vulnerable and create economic opportunity.

The picture painted by the Census data was not pretty. Poverty in Oregon rose from 11.7 percent in 2007-08 to 13.8 percent in 2009-10. Nationally, poverty increased 1.9 percentage points to 14.7 percent over the same time periods.

In 2009-10, the income of the typical Oregonian — Oregon’s median income — did not change from the level in 2007-08. It was $50,217 in the most recent two-year period.

When comparing differences among states, Census recommends using a three-year average. Oregon’s median income of $50,938 in the three-year period 2008-2010 was higher than 18 states, lower than 14 states and not significantly different from 18 states.

Also unchanged from 2007-08 to 2009-10 was the percent of Oregonians lacking health insurance coverage. In 2008-10, Oregon’s share of people without health insurance was not different from the nation’s as a whole or the rate of 10 other states. Nine states have rates higher than Oregon’s and 32 states have rates estimated to be significantly lower over that time period.

Although the national recession ended and economic growth resumed in June 2009, today’s data shows that those gains have excluded a significant number of Oregonians and Americans.

Rising poverty hurts our economy, preventing millions of adults and children from reaching their potential and creating greater social costs down the road.

It is thus imperative that Congress enact a robust and well-designed jobs program. More jobs and higher wages are an essential element of reducing poverty.

But just as important, Oregon and the nation need to invest in schools, healthcare, infrastructure and the other public structures that create economic opportunity. That means Congress and the state legislature must reject a cuts-only approach to balancing budgets during these fiscally challenging times and instead raise revenue from those with the greatest means to contribute.