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Sept. 20, 2020

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Poverty rates dipped in Pacific Coast states in 2018, 2019

Regional numbers down more sharply than nationally

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PORTLAND — Poverty rates fell more sharply in Pacific Coast states in the two most recent years measured than in the nation as a whole, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

Fewer than 11 percent of residents of California, Washington and Oregon lived below the poverty line in 2018 and 2019, the bureau said.

The average poverty rate for those two years was significantly lower than in 2016 and 2017 in both California and Washington.

It appeared to have fallen in Oregon as well, from 11 percent in the earlier period to 8.9 percent in 2018 and 2019, the agency reported. But given the smaller number of households sampled in less-populated Oregon, the change was within the survey’s margin of error, the Census Bureau said.

Economic data from 2019 may be a poor indicator of individual and family financial circumstances in the summer of 2020, a time of high unemployment and economic instability.

Pandemic layoffs hit low-wage workers first and hardest. Oregon’s unemployment rate in August was 7.7 percent and there were twice as many people looking for work as they were a year earlier. The wildfires that burned 1 million acres in Oregon last week have been concentrated in some of the state’s poorer rural communities.

Nationally, median household income in 2019 was $68,700, 6.8 percent above that 2018 when inflation is taken into account. And the official poverty rate decreased 1.3 percentage points to 10.5 percent. Between 2018 and 2019, the real median earnings of all U.S. workers increased by 1.4 percent, while the real median earnings of full-time, year-round workers increased 0.8 percent, the bureau reported.

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