Wage inequality grows in Portland

Middle-income workers struggle to find wage-appropriate housing.

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In Portland, shrinking numbers of middle-income workers struggle to find wage-appropriate housing as costs increase.

OregonLive.com reports:

The Portland Business Alliance on Tuesday released a report detailing the declining share of middle-wage jobs across the region. In Portland and most other metro areas, low- and high-paying jobs are growing relatively quickly, while while jobs in the middle struggle to gain traction.

And income is less disparate in Portland than in similarly sized cities like Cincinnati, Sacramento and St. Louis. But the higher cost of living here — driven primarily by the cost of housing — means middle-class families here have less buying power. Particularly in the city of Portland, that’s pushed workers to the fringes and away from the enclaves of middle-wage jobs, many of which cluster along the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

The result is a growing wage gap.

From the Portland Business Journal:

“If we want Portland to be a place where families can prosper, then restoring middle-income jobs should be top a priority,”Debbie Kitchin, chair of the Portland Business Alliance and owner of InterWorks LLC, said in a news release.

Middle-income jobs — defined as between $30,000 and $50,000 per year — accounted for just 57 percent of all Portland-area jobs in 2013. That’s a 12 percent decline from 1980, leading to a higher concentration of workers at the high and low ends of the wage spectrum. The report is the 14th economic study conducted by the PBA’s Value of Jobs Coalition, an initiative launched in 2010 to steer public policy toward the issues facing the region’s job market that could impact quality of life.

The city is suffering from the negative effects of globalization, the Portland Tribune writes.

According to the report, although the Portland area benefits from international trade, lower-value jobs have been created overseas. And many routine domestic jobs have been replaced by robotics, automation and online service providers. Job sectors affected by the changes include manufacturing, transportation, financial services and food service.

“It is very likely that more and more of the remaining routine jobs will be replaced by technology over time,” the report says.

A report from the Portland Housing Bureau reveals similar results.

Portland Tribune reports:

The report found renters and communities of color haven’t seen the wage growth documented economywide — with those gains mostly captured by whites. As housing prices and rents rise, the report shows, housing options are severely constrained for lower-income households, people of color, and single mothers and seniors.

When earning the median income for their Census tract, single mothers have almost no chance of renting a home with more than one bedroom in Portland. A median-income black household can’t afford to rent anything bigger than a studio apartment outside the Southeast 122nd Avenue and Division Street neighborhood. Median-income Native American households are limited to studio apartments in Parkrose or Cully. And very low-income people are outpriced of the private housing market across the city, the report shows.


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