ArticlePDF Available

LIFTING THE FLOOR: Self-Sufficiency Wages in Oregon

Authors:
  • Daniel Morris Research, LLC

Abstract

Across the state, hundreds of thousands of Oregonians are struggling to get by on the same low wage. No matter where you live, Oregon’s current minimum wage cannot support a family. A proposal to raise the wage to $13.50 statewide combined with restoring the power for local governments to set their own wages would give every working Oregonian the opportunity to earn a self-sufficiency wage.
LIFTING
THE FLOOR:
Self-Sufciency Wages in Oregon
INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW
Across the state, hundreds of thousands of Oregonians are struggling to
get by on the same low wage. No matter where you live, Oregon’s current
minimum wage cannot support a family. A proposal to raise the wage to $13.50
statewide combined with restoring the power for local governments to set their
own wages would give every working Oregonian the opportunity to earn a self-
sufficiency wage.
A research project conducted by Our Oregon
found that a $13.50 an hour minimum wage would
provide a base self-sufficiency income for Oregon’s
most rural counties. Consider these examples:
In less-populated rural areas of the state, a
full-time worker earning $13.50/hour could
support herself and one preschool-age child.
Nearly one in five Oregonians live in rural
areas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
For a household of two adults and two
children, where both adults work full time, a
$13.50 an hour minimum wage would mean
families in all but 7 counties would be self-
sufficient. 44% of the state’s population live
in the counties that would be self-sufficient
with full-time work.
For a two-parent household with two kids,
where one adult works full time and the
other half time, a $13.50 an hour minimum
wage would be a living wage in 18 counties
(half of Oregon’s counties, with a combined
14% of the population).
That’s not to say that a $13.50 an hour minimum
wage would only help people in rural counties
far from it. About 560,000 jobs in the state pay
less than $13.50 an hour. Most of these jobs
are in urban counties.
For Oregon’s most populated counties, workers
need more than $13.50 an hour to support
themselves and their family. Therefore a new
statewide minimum combined with restoring
local control to allow our cities and counties
to set higher minimum wages would allow local
governments to reflect standards of living in those
communities.1 This model has been successful in
both Washington and California.
What the numbers say
1The Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of
Washington publishes county-level estimates on income
needed for families to be self-sufficient-- that is, the
amount of income necessary to meet basic needs (includ-
ing taxes) without public subsidies (e.g., public housing,
food stamps, Medicaid or child care) and without private/
informal assistance (e.g., free babysitting by a relative or
friend, food provided by churches or local food banks, or
shared housing).
Workers on Public Assistance
Of the 560,000 jobs in the state that pay less
than $13.50 an hour, approximately 200,000
are held by workers who also receive public
assistance.
A $13.50 an hour minimum wage would help out
most of the workers who currently rely on these
benefits, which include SNAP (food stamps) or
government assistance for medical insurance.
Workers enrolled in SNAP in 2014 earned an
average $12.36 an hour in 2013. Industries in
which workers averaged less than $13.50/hour
accounted for 76% of the working food stamp
recipients.
Workers enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan (OHP)
in 2014 made an average wage of $13.62 an hour,
but those averages vary by industry. Workers
making less than $13.50 an hour accounted for
62% of all the workers on OHP. In other words,
nearly two-thirds of all OHP recipients who work
make less than $13.50 an hour.
To understand what it means to earn a living
wage in more detail, we’ll consider child care
and housing costs in the following pages.
The High Cost of Living
Page 1
The Cost of Child Care
A $13.50 minimum wage would be a reasonable floor to allow single parents to work and not be
overly burdened by child care costs in the counties where child care is the least expensive. Child
care is a significant expense for most working families, and child care in Oregon is less affordable
than in other states. The average cost of placing an infant in a care center is more than half of
the median income for single mothers in Oregon, and over 15% of the state median income for
married couples.2
The Oregon Department of Human Services commissioned a Child Care Market Price Study,
conducted by Oregon State University, which is used to help determine child care subsidy rates.
The 2014 report lists the median county prices for toddler care. Home-based child care is typically
the most affordable option for parents, with median rates for toddler care ranging from $2 an hour
in Harney and Wallowa Counties to $3.50 an hour in Benton County.
For child care costs to be less than 15% of a single parent’s income, a full-time worker in Harney
County, for example, would need to make at least $13.33 an hour—just below the $13.50 an hour
wage floor.
2Child Care Aware, “Parents and the High Cost of Child
Care,” 2014. Page 2
The Cost of Housing
Families that spend more than 30% of their income on housing are considered “cost-burdened.”3
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development publishes data on fair market rent for
every county in the U.S.4 In the counties with the least expensive housing, fair market rent for a
two-bedroom apartment is less than $700. If a family’s rent is $700, and if that should ideally
be no more than 30% of their monthly income, it would mean that a parent would need to be
bringing home an average of $538 a week, or approximately $13.50 an hour, to not be burdened
by housing cost.
3http://www.census.gov/housing/census/publications/who-can-afford.pdf
4 http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/fmr/fmr_il_history.html
Page 3
CONCLUSION
Based on current estimates of the income needed for families to be self-
sufficient and not be overly burdened by housing or child care costs, a $13.50
an hour minimum wage would provide an adequate base income for single,
working parents in Oregon’s most rural counties. In the state’s most populous
areas, $13.50 an hour is simply not enough to afford the basics like housing
and child care. Therefore, an across-the-state increase must be combined with
lifting preemption on local minimum wages to allow individual communities to
set wage levels that are right for them.
503-239-8029
618 NW Glisan St., Suite 203
Portland, OR 97209
ouroregon.org
Page 4
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.