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Oregon’s richest

From a June 9 report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

The economy has rarely been better, if you belong to Oregon’s richest of the rich. The latest figures show that the average income of Oregon’s top one-tenth of 1 percent of earners stands just below its all-time high, according to a new study by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

“At the very top of Oregon’s income ladder it looks as if the Great Recession never happened,” said Center analyst Tyler Mac Innis. “The typical Oregonian, however, remains stuck in the recession.”

Since the official end to the recession in 2009, the average income of the top one-tenth of 1 percent — a group consisting of only 1,680 households — has climbed by more than one million dollars, according the Center. In 2014, the year with the most recently available data, the average member of this group of top earners pulled in $3.9 million.

The story is rather different for the typical Oregonian. By 2014, the state’s median income had risen by just $21 since the beginning of the recovery, the study showed.

Looking over the long term, Oregon’s median income of $33,484 in 2014 was just $270 higher than in 1980, when adjusted for inflation. Over that same time, the income of the top one-tenth of one percent quadrupled.

While this tiny group at the very top has largely fueled the rise of the top 1 percent as a whole, the rest of the top 1 percent has also done quite well over the years, Mac Innis noted. The average, inflation-adjusted income of the rest of Oregon’s top 1 percent more than double between 1980 and 2014.

“Income inequality is the greatest economic challenge facing our state,” Mac Innis said. “Stagnant incomes for Oregonians in the middle makes it hard for them to keep up with the rising costs of housing, child care and other essentials. Worse still, there’s growing evidence that inequality hampers Oregon’s economic growth.”

The study called on Oregon lawmakers to confront inequality by ramping up investments in the education, job skills and health of all Oregonians, as well as in infrastructure. The Center said the state should pay for those investments by taxing the wealthy and corporations.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy (www.ocpp.org) is a non-partisan, non-profit institute that does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax and economic issues. The Center’s goal is to improve decision making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians.

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