Census data show "deep poverty" increase and median income decline in Oregon

Albany Democract-Herald
September 23, 2011

Even though by one measure Oregon’s economy improved a bit last year, poverty in the state worsened and the earnings of the typical household continued to shrink, the Oregon Center for Public Policy reports.

Th Silverton center does research and analysis on budget, tax and economic issues. It based Thursday’s report on the American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2010, 15.8 percent of Oregonians lived in poverty, significantly higher than the 14.3 percent rate in 2009 and 12.9 percent in 2007, according to the survey released today. Oregon’s 2010 poverty rate was higher than the national average.

According to the survey, last year 596,408 Oregonians lived in poverty — an increase of more than 120,000 from 2007, the year before the recession began.

What some experts call “deep poverty” — household income at less than half of the federal poverty threshold — remained at elevated levels last year in Oregon, the survey showed. While in 2007, 5.7 percent of Oregonians lived in deep poverty, in 2010 that share grew to 7.2 percent.

“Deep poverty is wreaking havoc on the lives of one in 14 Oregonians,” said Jason Gettel, policy analyst with the Oregon Center for Policy. To give a sense of how poor that is, Gettel noted that in 2010 a family of three would have had to earn less than $8,687 to meet the definition of living in deep poverty.

The typical Oregon household also fared poorly in the Census data. In 2010, median household income in Oregon was $46,560, down from $51,277 in 2007.

While the census data shows that Oregon households continued to feel the fallout from the recession, a separate set of government data also released Thursday showed that in 2010 the state’s economy had seen some improvement from the prior year.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that Oregon’s personal income increased about 3.2 percent from 2009 to 2010, reflecting slight growth in the state’s economy. Oregon’s per capita personal income rose as well, from $35,571 in 2009 to $36,427 in 2010.

Despite those gains, last year’s Oregon personal income and per capita personal income were still below the inflation-adjusted numbers for 2007, the year before the recession, according to center.

While there was no change in the median household incomes of African Americans and Latinos from 2007 to 2010, a gap still exists between the median household income of these groups and the typical Oregon household. In 2010, median income for Latino households was $37,298, while for African American households it was $31,799.

One bright spot in the census data was a large drop in the share of Oregon children without health insurance, Bauer said. The rate of uninsured Oregon children dropped from 12.1 percent in 2008 to 8.8 percent in 2010.

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