3 billionaires together own twice as much wealth as half of Oregonians combined

News Release
November 3, 2022

In what may be the first ever estimate of wealth inequality in Oregon, a new report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP) finds that three billionaires together have about twice the wealth as that of the entire bottom half of Oregonians.

One billionaire alone, Nike founder Phil Knight, owns more wealth than the bottom half of Oregonians, said OCPP.

“The level of wealth inequality is staggering,” said OCPP Policy Analyst Tyler Mac Innis. “These figures underscore just how much our economic system is designed to benefit a few at the top to the detriment of the vast majority of Oregonians.”

The OCPP paper said that Oregon’s three wealthiest individuals together hold about $53 billion in wealth, while the bottom half of all Oregonians — about 950,000 tax filers — together own about $27 billion. Besides Knight, Oregon’s two other billionaires are Travis Boersma, co-founder and CEO of Dutch Bros., and Tim Boyle, Chair and CEO of Columbia Sportswear.

The report, based on analysis provided by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, also said that the wealthiest tenth of Oregonians together own more than three-quarters of the wealth in the state.

Wealth refers to the sum of all the assets a person owns, minus all of their debts. Assets can take many forms, including real estate, stocks and other financial instruments, and ownership of businesses.

This differs from another measure of economic well-being, income, which refers to how much a person earns in a year. Earlier this week, OCPP published another paper showing that income inequality reached a record high in Oregon, based on the most recently available tax data.

“Because wealth is the accumulation of assets and income over years and generations,” the report said, “it represents a more profound measure of a family's ability to ride the ups and downs of the economy, to generate greater income, to provide educational and economic advantages to children, and to exercise political power through the use of money.”

“The current election cycle certainly shows how the concentration of wealth translates into political power,” said Mac Innis.

Figures from the Oregon Secretary of State’s office show that Knight has poured more than $5 million into the Oregon gubernatorial race alone, as well as additional sums into state legislative races this year.

While calling wealth inequality a problem of national scope that requires federal action, the report also called on the Oregon legislature to take action to reduce inequality. OCPP recommended policies that increase the ability of workers to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits, raise taxes on the wealthy, and help Oregonians meet their basic needs.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy (www.ocpp.org) is a non-partisan, non-profit institute that does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues. The Center’s mission is to achieve economic justice for all Oregonians through research, analysis, and advocacy.

Read the report Wealth Inequality in Oregon is Extreme.