Illustrating Oregon's Defining Challenge

Chuck Sheketoff

Last December President Obama stated that income inequality is the “defining challenge of our time.” OCPP’s latest publications illustrate how this challenge manifests itself in Oregon.

While some bad-mouth Oregon’s economy, the fact is that our state’s economy has performed exceptionally well by some key measures. A new OCPP fact sheet, If Economic Growth Assured Well-Being, Oregonians Would be Thriving, presents charts showing that Oregon's economy has significantly outpaced the U.S. economy and that our economic growth has topped that of all but one other state. We’re a larger share of the national economy than years ago. And Oregon’s growth in worker productivity is tops in the nation.

Yet those gains have not been widely shared.

The charts in another just released fact sheet, Economic Gains Flow to the Top as Oregon Income Inequality Soars, show that the income of Oregon's top 1 percent has soared, fueled by tremendous income growth among the 1,600 households that comprise the top one-tenth of1 percent. Meanwhile, the median income — the income of the typical Oregonian — has stagnated. The report also shows that almost three-quarters of all capital gains income goes to the top 1 percent, with the top one-tenth of 1 percent reaping almost one-half of all capital gains income.

The bottom line: Oregon’s main economic problem is not the lack of economic growth, but rather the fact that the gains of Oregon’s economic growth are flowing primarily to the relative few at the top. Oregon’s defining challenge is to adopt the policies that will generate broadly shared prosperity.

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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