As part of the Cascadia Scorecard project, Sightline monitors trends in the Northwest’s economy as it affects ordinary families. With the release today of new child poverty figures from the US Census Bureau, Sightline finds that the region’s overall economic security declined for the second straight year in 2008. And if more recent trends in unemployment are any indication, conditions have worsened further.
Some key findings:
- New Census figures released today show that nearly 1 in 6 Northwest children lived in poverty in 2008. Oregon reported the region’s highest child poverty rate with more than 18 percent of the state’s children living in households below the poverty line.
- Sightline’s economic security index shows worsening prospects for ordinary families in the Northwest. In 2008, the region’s economic security deteriorated for the second consecutive year. (Sightline’s index is a four-part composite based on unemployment rates, median incomes, poverty rates, and the share of children living below the poverty line.)
Headlines about GDP dominate the news, but there are few measures of economic well-being for ordinary families. According to Sightline’s index, middle-class and low-income northwesterners have seen virtually no net progress in economic security since 1990.
- Middle class wages have declined more last year than they have in nearly a decade. As of 2008, middle-income northwesterners earned about $3,000 less, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1998.
- The share of Northwesterners in poverty remained statistically unchanged between 2007 and 2008, yet in both years the Northwest’s poverty rate remained higher than it was in 1990.
The most recent federal unemployment figures are a warning sign that conditions may worsen further. Mimicking national trends, each state in the Northwest saw an increase in its monthly unemployment rate—and the unemployment rate in Oregon is now the highest in the state’s history.