Tracking Oregon's Progress: A Focus On Income Inequality

Jun 01, 2015
  • Description

Inequality in income, consumption, education, and quality of life across populations has become a growing concern in the United States. As the nation's attention shifts toward issues of inequality, it is important to understand the prevalence of inequality in Oregon. However, studying income inequality alone is not sufficient; counties with low income inequality can have high poverty, among other challenges. County and state variations in income inequality are partially due to differences in the population, their earning potential and their access to high-wage work. By examining poverty and inequality together, it is possible to gain a fuller understanding of the economic well-being of communities. Findings from this study reveal that:

  • Oregon has consistently ranked 22nd in the nation for its level of income inequality since the mid-2000s, meaning that just over half of the states in the nation have more income inequality than Oregon.
  • Within the western region of the U.S., Oregon has above average levels of income inequality.
  • Within Oregon, counties vary in levels of income inequality.
  • Multnomah, Benton, and Lane counties have consistently high income inequality. High income inequality is not unexpected in urban areas or small counties with large populations of university students.
  • Hood River and Morrow counties maintain consistently low levels of income inequality. Low income inequality can indicate that an economy is providing a mix of jobs that support middle income earners, as in the case of Hood River. However, low income inequality can also result from a lack of high wage earners, as in Morrow and other rural counties in the state.