Oregon’s ultra-rich get even richer, as income inequality sets new record


Oregon’s ultra-rich get even richer, as income inequality sets new record


Oregon’s ultra-rich get even richer, as income inequality sets new record

News Release

Whether looking at the ultra-rich or the merely rich, Oregon’s affluent have never been richer, according to new analysis by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

By several measures, income inequality in Oregon hit a new high in 2021, the year with the most recently available data. The Center’s analysis showed new records in terms of the income going to both the richest 1 percent of Oregonians and the richer subset that makes up the top 0.1 percent — the richest one out of every 1,000 Oregonians. The distance separating the typical Oregonian from the top 0.1 percent also set a new record.

“Rising inequality is the biggest economic problem facing our nation, making life more difficult for the vast majority of people,” said Tyler Mac Innis, a Policy Analyst with the Center. “The fact that income inequality continues to get even more extreme ought to be raising alarm bells for all policymakers.”

Income inequality has soared over the past four decades, according to the Center’s analysis of tax return data.Over the past four decades, the average income of the richest 0.1 percent surged nearly 700 percent, in inflation-adjusted terms, reaching nearly $8 million in 2021. But over that period, Oregon’s median income — the income of the taxpayer in the middle — inched up 15 percent. It stood at less than $44,000 in 2021, just $5,560 more than in 1980.

The typical Oregonian would need to work for 182 years to equal the average income of a member of the state’s top 0.1 percent made in 2021, the report said.

In another measure of the degree of inequality, the Center reported that the income captured by the top 1 percent as a group totaled $31.8 billion in 2021. That was about $9 billion more than all of the income received by the lowest-earning half of all Oregonians.

For decades, researchers have been tracking the many ways vast income inequality harms society, including reduced social mobility and lower economic growth, according to Mac Innis.

Rising inequality also harms mental and physical health, researchers have found. A recent, in-depth report in The Washington Post on declining life expectancy in the U.S. concluded that dying prematurely “has become the most telling measure of the nation’s growing inequality.”

“Although the magnitude of the problem requires federal action, there is an important role for state policymakers in responding to rising inequality,” said Mac Innis. He urged Oregon lawmakers to raise taxes on the richest Oregonians and bolster protections for workers to organize for better wages and working conditions.

Read the report Oregon’s Rich Have Never Been Richer. And learn more about the economic well-being of Oregonians by visiting the Oregon Center for Public Policy’s data dashboard, Data for the People.

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Written by staff at the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

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