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economic justice

Household costs squeeze budgets

Oregon Center for Public Policy report.
April 14, 2004
 link to www.registerguard.com

Anti-tax groups are quick to blame taxes as the source of Oregonians' financial woes.

But a report released Tuesday by the Silverton-based Oregon Center for Public Policy argues that other escalating expenses - namely housing and health insurance - and stagnant incomes are the real forces squeezing family budgets.

The report asserts that taxes have become more affordable and other household expenses less affordable in the past 15 years.

State and local taxes as a percentage of Oregon household income fell to 6.8 percent in 2003, down from 7.4 percent in 1989, the group's report said.

Meanwhile, the study said, the following costs have skyrocketed:

Housing: The median sale price of a single-family home rose 99 percent in Eugene from 1990 to 2000. The comparable national increase was 46 percent.

The portion of Oregon homeowners spending at least 30 percent of their income on home mortgage payments, taxes, insurance and utilities rose to 25 percent in 2000, up from 18 percent in 1990.

The Oregon figure compares with a national average of 22 percent in 2000. Oregon renters also felt the squeeze. Forty-two percent of renters spent at least 30 percent of their income on rent in 2000, up from 39 percent in 1990.

Health care: More employees must pay part of the premium of their employer-sponsored insurance, and workers' contributions have risen. The average employee contribution for family coverage was $1,925 in 2001, up from $1,043 in 1993. The average employee contribution for family coverage rose 11 percent annually from 1993 to 2001, and 9 percent annually for single coverage. Meanwhile, annual growth of Oregon workers' average earnings was 4.7 percent.

Child care: Nearly a third of Oregon families use some type of paid child care. The average family using such care paid $439 a month in 2002, up from $264 in 1992. Average child care costs rose 66 percent in those 10 years, outpacing the 43 percent increase in Oregon workers' average annual earnings over the same period.

Higher education: Tuition hikes sting the 60,000 Oregon students attending Oregon public universities. Annual resident tuition and fees at the University of Oregon were $4,359 in 2003 - nearly triple the $1,556 cost in 1998. From 1988 to 2002, tuition rose 161 percent, while the average Oregon worker's earnings rose 72 percent.

The report is available online at  http://www.ocpp.org/2004/rpt040413.pdf