New statistics released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate Oregonians are poorer and have less access to health insurance than other states.
As the last economic expansion hit its peak, the typical Oregon household's income rose slightly in 2007 over the previous year.
Yet Oregon was unable to reduce poverty or the percentage of Oregonians lacking health insurance, according to an analysis of the Census data by the Silverton-based Oregon Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan research institute.
"The typical Oregon household saw its income improve somewhat last year," said Michael Leachman, a policy analyst with the institute, "but the household was no better off than it was at the end of the last expansion in 2000."
Leachman said the state's median household income in 2007 was $48,730 – not much different from what it was in 2000, before the previous recession.
"When the most recent economic expansion was at its peak, the typical Oregonian made no gains," said Leachman.
He said the new statistics show the number of people lacking health insurance is higher in real terms and in percentage terms, as well.
In 2007, poverty in Oregon stood at 12.9 percent, which means about one out of eight Oregonians was officially poor.
"Oregon continues to fail in reducing its poverty rate during the good economic times," said Joy Margheim, a policy analyst at the institute.
Margheim called on Governor Kulongoski and lawmakers to address poverty with the same vigor that they have addressed hunger and food insecurity.
"A concerted effort by the state led to significant changes in our rate of hunger and food insecurity over the last decade," Margheim said. "It is time for the Governor to lead a similar effort to reduce poverty."
She suggested raising the state earned income tax credit, improving Oregon's unemployment insurance system so more workers are covered, strengthening the state's cash assistance program, expanding health insurance for working families, and making housing more affordable through smart state investments.
"The bottom line is that Oregon needs a plan and a commitment to reduce poverty," Margheim said.
Nationally, fewer children lack health insurance, while OCPP's analysis saw no change in the number of uninsured children in Oregon.
"Sadly, things still do look different here," Leachman said. "Unlike the rest of the country we are making no headway in providing health insurance to kids and our rate of uninsurance for all Oregonians is higher than the national average."