Rogue Valley Poverty Rates Improved in 2016

by Guy Tauer

December 28, 2017

Recently released poverty rates from the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates Program show continuing improvement in the percent of the Rogue Valley population living in poverty. The all age poverty rate declined from 19.3 percent in 2015 to 14.6 percent in 2016 in Jackson County. Josephine County’s poverty rate, while still higher than Jackson’s, also declined over the year from 21.9 to 18.0 percent. Jackson County’s poverty rate most recently peaked in 2011 at 19.7 percent. Josephine’s rate peaked in 2012 at 22.2 percent. Both counties’ rates have trended lower since those peaks occurred after the end of the Great Recession.

It’s important to keep in mind that these are estimates. At the 90-percent confidence interval, the Census Bureau shows Jackson County’s poverty rate for 2016 between 12.6 and 16.6 percent. So to be sure the poverty rate did decline from 2015 to 2016, but possibly not as much as the headline figure shows. But the decline was statistically significant as it was outside the margin of error for these estimates.
Looking at the number of people living in poverty, there were 31,189 residents with income below the poverty line in Jackson County in 2016. Back in 1998, when the poverty rate was estimated at a similar level of 14.7 percent, there were an estimated 25,870 residents living in poverty. So while the rates trended down in recent years, the number of people who may need assistance or services is about 20 percent higher  than in 1998, due to population growth. In Josephine County, there were an estimated 15,239 residents living in poverty in 2016, down from 18,268 the year before. Rogue Valley poverty rates have declined from their recent peak, but the rates are still above those seen in the 1998-2007 decade.

Youth Poverty Rates

The Census Bureau also provides poverty rate estimates for youth, for those ages 18 and under and the typical school-age population for those ages five to 17. Turning to the 18 and under age group, the rates are higher than the overall population. Declines in youth poverty rates were estimated for both Rogue Valley counties from 2015 to 2016. Jackson County’s youth poverty rate fell from 25.2 percent to 19.0 percent in 2016. Josephine’s youth poverty rate fell sharply from 34.4 percent to 24.3 percent during that time. Youth poverty rates are close to their 20-year low points, and at the 90-percent confidence level range, essentially equal to those low points going back two decades.
Median Household Income

The Rogue Valley saw a mixed bag in median household income trends between 2015 and 2016. Jackson’s median household income rose from $44,855 in 2015 to $48,538 in 2016, an increase of 8.2 percent. Josephine County saw a decline; median household income fell from $40,569 to $38,921, a drop of 4.1 percent. It’s counterintuitive that household income and poverty rates would both decline, but that’s sometimes one of the drawbacks and anomalies of sample and survey based estimates where the error ranges in the published figures can be substantial. Oregon’s median household income rose from $54,074 to $57,379 in 2016, a gain of 6.1 percent. As the economy kept growing in 2017, poverty rates and income trends are likely to show continued improvement when the 2017 data are released in late 2018.
For more information and data for other areas see: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/saipe.html.


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