A Graphic View of Poverty in Oregon

State of Working Oregon Series
September 19, 2013 Download PDF
Note: This report has been updated. View the updated report.

Poverty continues to engulf too many Oregonians, and the latest data show things aren't getting any better. The Great Recession officially ended in June of 2009. Unfortunately, after more than two years of anemic economic recovery, poverty in Oregon was still worse in 2012 than at the depth of that recession.

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A Graphic View of Poverty in Oregon (PDF)

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See the series A View of the State of Working Oregon

In 2012, after more than two years of economic recovery, poverty in Oregon remained higher than during the Great Recession.

The rate of poverty in Oregon in 2012 stood at 17.2 percent. That was higher than the 14.3 percent rate registered in 2009, at the end of the recession and not significantly different than in 2011.[1]

Between 2009, the year the recession ended, and 2012 more than 120,000 more Oregonians fell below the poverty line. That is like adding two record crowds at Autzen Stadium to the ranks of the poor.

In 2012, nearly one in four Oregon children (23 percent) lived in poverty.

In 2007, prior to the start of the recession, Oregon’s child poverty rate (16.9 percent) trailed the national average.

Starting in 2008 and continuing through 2012, Oregon’s child poverty rate has been no different than the national average.

About 660,000 Oregonians lived below the federal poverty threshold in 2012.

To put that total in perspective, you would have to add almost half of Salem’s population to the number of people living in the City of Portland (587,865) to equal the number of people living in poverty last year.[2]

If poverty were a city in Oregon, it would be the state’s largest city.

“Deep poverty” — households with income at less than half of the federal poverty threshold — is also above its level before and during the recession.

In 2007, on the eve of the Great Recession, 5.7 percent of Oregonians lived in deep poverty. In 2009, at the end of the recession, deep poverty afflicted 6.3 percent of Oregonians. By 2012, the share had grown to 7.9 percent.

How deep is deep poverty? A family of three would have had to earn less than about $9,142 in 2012 to meet the definition of living in deep poverty.

As bad as poverty is for Oregon as a whole, it’s worse for most Oregonians of color.

In 2012, the poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites in Oregon was 15 percent. By contrast, it was 30 percent for Latinos, 34 percent for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, 36 percent for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and 41 percent for African Americans.

The poverty rate for Asians in Oregon (12 percent) was lower than the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

Note on Methodology

When determining the poverty rate, the Census Bureau counts all income earned by a family before taxes. In other words, it does not include non-cash benefits, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or tax liabilities and credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

The poverty threshold varies by family size and composition. For example, in 2012 the poverty threshold was $11,945 for a single person under 65 and $23,283 for a family with two parents and two children. Thresholds are slightly lower for individuals and couples over 65 and vary slightly by the number of children and adults in the family but they do not vary by geography and therefore do not take into account differences in cost of living. Thresholds are updated each year to take inflation into account.

Like all surveys, the American Community Survey (ACS) — the source of data for this analysis — provides estimates from a random sample of households. These estimates have a margin of error. Results will vary from one sample to another to a certain extent, depending on sample size and the particular characteristic that is being measured.

When comparing two measures — for instance, the poverty rate in two different years or among two different racial groups — it is important to consider how this sampling variability affects the difference between the two measures. If the difference between the two rates would occur due to variability less than 10 times out of 100, then we can say that we have a 90 percent level of confidence that the difference between the two rates reflects an actual difference. In other words, the chance that the difference between the two estimates is simply the result of random chance is less than 10 percent. While different levels of confidence (e.g., 95 or 99 percent) can be used to measure significance, the 90 percent level is typically used when analyzing ACS data, and that is the measure used here when establishing a difference as significant.[3]

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all data in this fact sheet comes from OCPP analysis of American Community Survey data.

[2] Population estimate is for the City of Portland as of July 1, 2012 from Portland State University’s Population Research Center, Certified Population Estimates.

[3]For more on calculating levels of confidence and testing for significance, see Appendix 4 in the ACS User Guide.