Oregon families in poverty more likely to work than not

News Release
February 14, 2019

The majority of Oregon families living in poverty have at least one working parent, and often that parent works full time. That is according to a new report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

“For families living in poverty, work is the rule, not the exception,” said Janet Bauer, a policy analyst with the Center. “This harsh reality speaks to the need for Oregon lawmakers to enact policies that boost the take-home pay of low-income working families.”

In 2017, more than two-thirds of Oregon families living below the federal poverty line had at least one parent who worked, according to the Center.

Having a parent who works is the norm for an Oregon child growing up on poverty. In 2017, about three of every four poor Oregon children (73 percent) had at least one parent who worked, according to the Center. Its report noted that stress caused by poverty during childhood can impact a child’s cognitive development, their physical health, and their earnings as an adult.

The report also found that a quarter (24 percent) of all Oregon families living in poverty in 2017 had at least one parent working full time. That figure was higher than in 2010, the first full year of economic recovery following the end of the Great Recession.

“Economic growth and the availability of jobs are proving to be insufficient to ensure that working families can cover the costs of housing and other essentials,” said Bauer. “Lawmakers need to tackle head on the problem of poverty despite work.”

An effective way to help low-income working families make ends meet is by increasing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Bauer said. “The EITC is one of the most effective tools we have to support working families struggling to get by, which is why the credit has long enjoyed widespread bipartisan support.”

Oregon’s EITC is calculated as a percentage — currently 8 percent — of the larger federal tax credit by the same name. Oregon lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation that would increase the Oregon credit to 20 percent of the federal credit.

“Raising the EITC would be big step forward in ensuring that all parents who work can support their families,” said Bauer. “Now is the time to advance policies that allow all Oregonians to live in dignity, with economic security.”

The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a non-partisan, non-profit 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.