At diminishing incomes for the poorest families, that is. Yippee.
I haven’t had time yet to fully digest the the new “Pulling Apart” report from Economic Policy Institute, but that seems to be the main take-away lesson for the Northwest. (For those of you not in the know, “Pulling Apart” is the definitive summary of state income trends; and it’s updated and released annually by the brainiacs at EPI.)
From the early 1990s to the early 2000s, the income of Washington’s poorest families declined slightly after adjusting for inflation. The only other state where this may have happened was Connecticut. (In both WA and CT, the changes in income are small and may be within the margin of error.) In every other state, however, the lowest-earning 20 percent of families saw at least modest income improvements over the period.
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Washington may have been worst, but the Northwest in general was a tough place for the bottom quintile of families. Montana was 4th worst; Oregon was 10th worst. Idaho, however, was best in the region, slightly beating the national average and bringing home about $3,000 more. Incidentally, poor families in Minnesota did better than in any other state, boosting their incomes by around $6,500.
The story for the Northwest’s middle class wasn’t much different. Montana’s middle-earning 20 percent of families saw the 5th worst improvement over the period; Washington’s was 6th worst; and Oregon’s was 11th worst. Once again, Idaho did best in the region at almost exactly the national average. And once again, Minnesota did best in the nation, boosting middle class incomes by nearly $16,000.
There are a whole heap of caveats that I should mention, but most important is this: EPI’s data stops in 2003. So it’s possible that things have changed since then. I should also mention that economic security indicators can be tough: there are a lot of them, many of them are outdated, and they often point in different directions. I’ll be sharing some others soon and they’re not all quite as gloomy as this one.
All data in this post are calculated from figures in the appendix tables on pages 58 to 60.
I just went over the methodology in the report.It doesn’t seem to adjust for cost of living increases. The cost of housing – at least in the Puget Sound area – has easily outpaced inflation. This year rents are on the rise again so if anything by any real test of poverty families in this region are worse off than the statistics show. Seems pretty gloomy to me…
Eric de Place
Arie, you’re right about that. (Yikes, people checking up on me by reading the methodology.) EPI just does a natl inflation adjustment to reported incomes and then breaks down the results by state. So it fails to capture the local skyrocketing housing costs except insofar that housing is capture in the federal consumer price index (which it hardly is). You could make a similar arugment about health care and energy costs, both of which are accelerating way beyond the reported rate of inflation.