Key Findings

Across the board, workers in Oregon are not earning enough to make ends meet.

For four of five household types, less than half of all workers earn a living wage.

Only 57 percent of workers in the state earn enough for a single adult to make ends meet.

Only 23 percent earn enough for two adults with two children, with one adult working, to make ends meet.

Race and Ethnicity Matter in Oregon

Data was available for white, black, Asian, Native American, and all workers of color, as well as for Latino and non-Latino workers. Native American workers and workers of color overall were less likely to earn a living wage for all household types than was true for the overall working population, and black workers were less likely to earn a living wage for three of five household types. Latinos were less likely to earn a living wage than were non-Latinos.

The widest gap between workers of color and all workers is for the household with two working adults and two children. Forty-three percent of all workers earn a living wage greater than or equal to the living wage for two working adults and two children, but only 33 percent of workers of color were able to provide the income needed for that family type.

Thirty-six percent of all workers earn a living wage for a single adult with one child, compared to only 23 percent of all workers of color.

Only 6 percent of Latino workers earn a living wage to support a single adult with two children, and the same to support a family with two adults and two children, with only one adult working.

Gender Matters in Oregon

Across all household types, women were less likely than men to earn a living wage.

Only 54 percent of female workers earn a living wage for a single adult, compared with 58 percent of male workers.

Only 18 percent of female workers earn enough for a single adult with two children to make ends meet, and the same for a family with two adults and two children, with only one adult working.

Citizenship Matters in Oregon

Across all household types, non-citizens were less likely than citizens to earn a living wage.

The widest gap between non-citizens and citizens is for the household with a single adult. Only 31 percent of non-citizens earn enough for a single adult to make ends meet, compared to 59 percent of citizens.

Only 12 percent of non-citizen workers earn enough for a single adult with two children to make ends meet, and the same for a family with two adults with two children, with only one adult working.

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Vi Swiftcloud – Portland, Oregon

“I’m glad to be better off than I once was, but even $21 per hour isn’t enough to lift us out of poverty. It would at least be nice to not always have to cut and juggle which bills to pay, and to have a little left over at the end of the month.”

Personal Testimony: Vi Swiftcloud

I’ve come a long way over the past 20 years, and yet it sometimes still feels like not far enough. Today, I work in social services earning $21 per hour. It sounds like a lot, especially compared to the $5.34 per hour I made in 1995, but my family still lives in poverty.

In 1995, I was a single, Native American mother. Finding a job was next to impossible, and the only rent I could afford for myself and my teenage son was single-room occupancy. Thankfully, I was able to get a position as a desk clerk for the building where we lived, which helped us scrape by.

Over the next few years, my wages began to increase. Just as they increased to $11, I took custody of my sister’s three children. I had to move into a three-bedroom apartment because now I had two boys and two girls, ages 6 to 16.

Our transportation was the public bus system. We did our grocery shopping, our doctor’s appointments, and all of our travel on the bus. We had to get up at 4 a.m. so that I could get the children on the bus and to childcare. Our lives were very difficult and I was exhausted most of the time. With the help of food boxes, my children never went to bed hungry, but at times, I did.

We did our budgeting as a family. We had to be intentional with every dollar we had. On payday, we would sit down at the table; all of our bills were written on a white board. I would write the check, my son would use the calculator and mark it down in the checkbook. One daughter would mark it off the whiteboard, another would put it in an envelope and hand it to the youngest and she would lick it and put a stamp on it. Then we would see how much money we had left and choose the next bill to pay.

If we had money left over, each month one child would get to choose what family activity we could do. We were occasionally able to go to the museum or the zoo.

Today, I finally make more money, but we still live in poverty. My other sister lives with us, along with my 15-year-old nephew, a high school sophomore. The other children are out of the house, but my oldest daughter is already faced with student debt, and I know my middle child will face student debt once she gets out of school, too.

I’m glad to be better off than I once was, but even $21 per hour isn’t enough to lift us out of poverty. It would at least be nice to not always have to cut and juggle which bills to pay, and to have a little left over at the end of the month.

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Connecticut Equity Report

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National Equity Report

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