New report: incomes up in Multnomah County, but one third of households unable to meet basic needs

December 3, 2019

Multnomah County has experienced strong economic growth in recent years, but low- and middle-income workers are being left behind, according to a new report on poverty in Multnomah County released Tuesday, Dec. 3. Among the key findings: 34 percent of Multnomah County households are unable to meet their basic needs.  

The 2019 Poverty in Multnomah County report, produced by the Multnomah County Commission for Economic Dignity, examined poverty in the region based on years of economic data. Researchers looked at every angle of poverty in the county, including its demographics, geography, and how it affects residents’ well being and access to opportunities.

The report’s findings paint a different picture of recent headlines about Portland’s economic growth. Since 2010, Portland has become the 10th wealthiest major city in the U.S. and the number of households with incomes of $100,000 or more has grown by 45 percent. But more than a third of households fall below the area’s Self-Sufficiency Standard. 

“Multnomah County has experienced strong economic growth in recent years, but the growth has not been distributed evenly,” the report reads. “The benefits have been concentrated at the top of the income ladder, while many of the county’s most vulnerable residents still struggle with poverty and inadequate access to opportunities.”

Other findings from the report include:

  • Since 1990, the county’s population in poverty grew at almost twice the rate of the county’s population as a whole

  • The highest poverty areas in the county are east of I-205, where up to 22% of residents are impoverished

  • The median hourly wages in 8 out of the 10 most common jobs in Multnomah County are unable to support a family with young children.

  • Poverty rates for African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinxs are more than twice the rate as white residents

  • Safety net programs have eroded to the point that most fail to bring their participants above the poverty line

The report offers new recommendations to end the conditions that cause poverty through structural and policy changes. Those recommendations are outlined in the report, available online