12-04-2016  6:23 pm      •     

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The recession spread poverty into thousands of mom-and-dad households where good jobs had been common, a study of food stamp use in Oregon concludes.
The study from Oregon State University compared first-time food stamp users in 2009 and in 2005, when Oregon's economy was better.
It found outsize increases in such categories as adult males who had lost manufacturing or construction jobs, households that hadn't used food stamps and households that reported sharp drops in income.
The findings were not a surprise. Even as the recession was easing, food stamp use was rising, with one in six Oregonians using them.
``It's closer to one in five now, so it's getting worse,'' said Mark Edwards, an associate professor of sociology who worked on the study with Suzanne Porter, the lead author. It was released last week.
Porter is a caseload forecaster for the state Department of Human Services who did the research as part of her graduate program. She said it grew out of anecdotal reports of caseworkers in the department, but the results still took her aback.
The study said, for example, that even though households headed by single women still outnumbered those headed by two adults, the number of two-adult households starting food stamps was 50 percent greater than four years earlier, while the number of households headed by single women and starting food stamps was 37 percent larger.
Similarly, the number of households starting food stamps that had at least one full-time adult worker for at least one quarter in the previous year was 95 percent greater than in 2005, and those with a full-time worker for a whole year was 87 percent greater.
Households going on food stamps with more tenuous work experience -- any work in the prior year -- were up by a smaller rate, 66 percent.
What followed from those statistics was households reporting sharper drops in income before going on food stamps.
``The prevalence of recent full-time work and higher earnings ... are indicators of the degree to which job loss fueled the creation of newly poor and low-income families in Oregon,'' the report said.
Food stamps is the common name for the grocery subsidy formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Even though the economy has begun slowly to expand, unemployment in Oregon has persisted above 10 percent with little change in the last year. In the meantime, thousands of people exhaust jobless benefits each month and fall back on food stamps and other aid.
The report says the recession of the early 1980s was also severe in Oregon, and Porter said the state didn't bounce back completely from a milder recession early in this century.
``We never recovered to the point where we were in 1999. We keep ratcheting down,'' she said. ``We have a long, long way to go.''

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