September 11, 2009

West Coast states crippled by higher poverty rates

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Poverty rates along the West Coast are higher than the national average and the state’s residents are less likely to have health insurance, according to a University of Washington researcher studying U.S. Census Data. Kristi Heim of the Seattle Times spokewith Jennifer Romich of the UW’s West Coast Poverty Center, who found that poverty rates in Western states were at 13.5 percent, compared to the national average of 13.2 percent. The percentage of individuals without health insurance skyrocketed to 17.4 percent between 2007-2008, while the national statistic — 15.4 percent — remained the same.

The Census Bureau considers families of four living on less than $22,000 a year as below the poverty line. This same measurement is used for all 48 lower states — which is an issue, writes Heim:

That may actually understate the economic distress that poorer people are feeling in places like Seattle, where the cost of living is much higher than in the Midwest or South, for example.

Don Lee of the Spokesman Review reported similar statistics from the Census Bureau today, detailing 11-year record high poverty rates and 2009 national unemployment rates of 8.9 percent, blowing 2008’s 5.8 percent out of the water.

Oregon in particular seems to be feeling the crunch as nearly 3,000 residents have drained their unemployment benefits, including federal extensions, reportsthe Ashland Daily Tidings. No surprise then that Oregon food banks are seeing an all-time record for emergency food boxes — reporting more than a 13 percent increase in distributions since last year. Children make up the majority of those hungry faces; An estimated 85,000 Oregon children rely on emergency meals each month, an issue InvestigateWest has been keeping its eye on since we first reported on it in early August.

— Natasha Walker

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