News: Oregonians have more income

Chuck Sheketoff

New data released this week from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that Oregon’s per capita personal income increased 4.4 percent last year, while the nation’s per capita personal income increased 4.3 percent. Our neighbor to the north, Washington, saw its per capita personal income grow 4.0 percent.

How did this happen? Oregon’s personal income rose 5.3 percent in 2011, compared to a 5.1 percent increase for the nation. Oregon’s personal income is an estimate of what you would get when you add up all of the income received by Oregonians (except for income from capital gains).

Per capita personal income is what you get when you divide personal income by the total number of people in the state; you get the average personal income and at the same time account for changes in population over time.

Over the course of the last decade, when taking into consideration the effects of inflation, Oregon personal income is up 13.9 percent and per capita personal income is up 2 percent.

Bottom line: the combined and average personal income of Oregonians increased last year and over the past decade. This is one example of how Oregon’s economy performs well over time. There’s plenty of ways to show that over time Oregon has had good economic performance.

. . . shared prosperity still lacking

Unfortunately, that has not translated into increased prosperity for most Oregonians. Income inequality is vast and poverty has been on the rise.

Income inequality and poverty — not per capita personal income — are the issues that cry out for the attention of Oregon’s policymakers.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at

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    Assuming you're accurately reporting the numbers, I don't think the numbers show what you think they show. A 2% increase in per capita income in 10 years represents an average annual increase of less than 0.2% (less than 0.2% because of the effects of compounding). If that's right, it's way worse than I ever thought it was even in my most pessimistic moments. An average annual increase in per capita income of less than 0.2% is a cruel joke, not even close to robust economic growth. The last year (2011) shows above-average growth because it is growth against the disastrous declines in 2007-2010. What this data show is that the pie really hasn't grown much over the last 10 years. We'd better fix that problem, or the fights over how to split the pie will get even nastier than they already are.

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      Bob -- I know what the numbers show. I never claimed Oregon has had "robust" growth in per capita personal income; don't put words in my mouth. I am merely showing that our per capita personal income has gone up, despite a couple years of rhetoric to the contrary by many in Oregon's business community. While the nation saw a 5.3 percent increase over 2001 to 2011, Oregon's per capita personal income went up as well, 2 percent (and we slightly beat the nation in growth over the last year). And while overall personal income (not per capita) went up 15.1 percent nationally when adjusted for inflation from 2001 to 2011, in Oregon it went up 13.9 percent -- in other words, despite a horrible recession and a somewhat anemic recovery, nationally and in Oregon "the pie" grew. Did it grow enough? No. But it grew. The other economic data linked in the post shows other ways Oregon's economy performed better that most of the nation.

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        One more point: neither the US nor Oregon per capita personal income has returned to the 2007 level before the recession; the recession wreaked tremendous havoc, and as noted here the top 1 percent and top one-tenth of one percent have had gains despite the recession, while median income and poor Oregonians have not.

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    Maybe I missed it, but what are the numbers for median family/household income. I think that may be the most significant number for most people.

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      Bill -- you didn't miss it. Personal income and per capita personal income are economic indicators for the economy generally, not how typical (median) households have done. As we reported here last fall median income -- the income of the typical Oregon household -- was down in 2010. The 2011 numbers will come out this fall.

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