|illustration by kristin rogers|
Between 1989 and 2000, according to a study by the Oregon Center for Public Policy, Oregon's wealthiest 1 percent saw its average annual income zoom from $374,000 to $741,000, a leap of 98 percent. In the same period, the state's median income rose from $24,600 to $26,700--a rise of just 9 percent. In 1989, people in the richest 1 percent raked in 11 percent of the state's total income. Today, they hog 17 percent.
"With the 1990s boom behind us, we can now see just how unequally those gains were distributed," says Jeff Thompson, an economist with OCPP, which on Nov. 6 released a 113-page report titled "Boom, Bust, & Beyond: The State of Working Oregon 2002." (You can download a copy at www.ocpp.org.) The report says that during the '90s the gap between rich and poor in Oregon grew faster than in any other state except Connecticut.
The report also concluded that the 2001 recession largely erased the inroads made in reducing poverty, that bankruptcy levels are at record highs and that middle-class families are working longer hours to maintain their standard of living.