Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Look at Wage Inequality in Oregon

Oregon workers earned more than $63 billion in wages in 2009, but what does a close look at those wages reveal? Do high-wage workers get a bigger piece of the wage pie in Oregon? What fraction goes to high-wage workers and what fraction goes to low-wage workers?

To find out, we looked at the degree of wage inequality in Oregon and whether wage inequality has grown since 1990. Wage inequality trends were tracked through the rapid job growth of the mid-1990s, the recession of the early 2000s, and the recent recession.

According to our findings, wage inequality in Oregon rose steadily between 1990 and 2000, declined slightly in 2001 and 2002, continued to increase to a peak in 2007, and has since remained essentially unchanged.

Some of the other findings included:
• Top earners moved away from the middle
• Higher-earners gained more since 2003
• Middle-wage workers have seen little increase since 1990

The graph below illustrates the relatively small wage increase experienced by middle-wage workers. Each line in the graph represents a group of wage earners; those at the 20th percentile earn fairly low wages and those at the 98th percentile are some of Oregon's highest earners.

If you'd like to know more, please see the full article, which talks in detail about each of the findings. It also looks at two other measures of wage inequality in Oregon.

The full article was co-authored by special projects analyst Barbara Peniston and state employment economist Nick Beleiciks.

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