September 22, 2009: According to new census numbers, one in six children in the Northwest live under the poverty line. Sightline’s economic index, part of the Cascadia Scorecard project, reveals that low- and middle-income families have seen virtually no economic progress since 1990. Middle-class income among northwesterners in 2008 saw its largest drop in nearly a decade. Oregon families are especially feeling the pinch as unemployment climbed to 12.2 percent and child poverty rose to 18.1 percent.

Economic Insecurity: Tougher conditions for the Northwest’s workers, middle class

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Brief summary: Children in Poverty, Ordinary Families No Better Off

  • Too many kids in poverty. Nearly one in six Northwest children live in households below the poverty line. While Washington and Idaho saw no statistical change, Oregon likely saw an increase in child poverty from 16.9 to 18.1 percent.
  • No progress for ordinary families. Sightline’s economic security index shows worsening prospects for ordinary families in the Northwest. In 2008, the index deteriorated for the second consecutive year. Low- and middle-income families have seen little-to-no economic progress in nearly two decades.
  • Middle-class wages are down. Middle-class wages declined more last year than they have in nearly a decade. In 2008, middle-income northwesterners earned about $3,000 less, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1998, the peak for median income.
  • Poverty is high. 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.
  • Unemployment persists. The situation for working families can’t improve very much until people who want to work have better chances of finding working-wage jobs.
September 22, 2009