News Release|

Worksystems is pleased to release the 2021 Self-Sufficiency Standard, a measure of how much income a family of a certain composition in a given place in Oregon must earn to meet their basic needs without public or private subsidies. Developed by Dr. Diana Pearce, Director of the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington, the Standard looks at the costs of child care, food, health care, housing, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses and is customized for 700 different household compositions and for every county in Oregon to determine the minimum amount needed to be self-sufficient. The Standard is a much more accurate measurement of poverty than the Federal Poverty Level. 

Over 99,000 households in the Portland Metro area are living below the self-sufficiency standard.

An in-depth analysis of the households less likely to be self-sufficient helps us better understand factors impacting poverty in the Portland Metro region. We use this information to guide our public workforce investments to prepare job seekers for occupations that we know pay a self-sufficient wage. 

  • For families with young children, the cost of housing and childcare combined typically make up the most substantial portion of the family’s budget. For example, for a family with two adults, one infant, and one preschooler in Washington County, childcare is 30% of the family’s budget while housing is 20%.
  • The 2021 Self-Sufficiency Standard for Portland is more expensive than many similar sized cities. The Self-Sufficiency Standard for one adult, one preschooler, and one school-age child in Multnomah County (Portland) ($36.42 per hour) is most comparable to Sacramento, CA.
  • The amount needed to meet the costs of basic needs increased between 2008 and 2021 in all Oregon counties. For a family with two adults, one preschooler, and one school-age child, the Standard increased on average by 71%, across the state.
  • The federal poverty guidelines for three-person families ($21,960 annually) is set at a level well below what is minimally needed to meet a family’s basic needs. For example, the federal poverty guideline is just 29% of the Standard for one adult, one preschooler, and one school-age child in Multnomah County ($76,912 annually).
  • Even working full time, a parent earning the 2021 Portland Urban metro minimum wage of $14.00 per hour will fall short of meeting the Standard for a family with children. If they have one preschooler and one school-age child and live in Multnomah County, the parent would be able to cover only 47% of the family’s basic needs (with their take-home pay after accounting for taxes).
  • Only three of the top ten most common occupations in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro have median wages above the Standard for a three-person family in Multnomah County.
  • There are 99,106 households living below the Self-Sufficiency Standard in Portland Metro.

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