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New Census data released today shows that Washington state was one of a handful of states where poverty increased between 2012 and 2013, while median income remained stagnant. The new numbers shed further light on the state’s uneven economic recovery and should serve as a call-to-action for lawmakers.
Washington state, New Jersey, and New Mexico were the only three states to see an increase in the total number of people living in poverty. Washington state-specific data include (see fact sheet):
The latest numbers are shocking, but not surprising given the high – and growing – degree of income inequality in Washington state. Lawmakers should be very concerned – an economy that works for such a small share of the population is not a recipe for long-term social and economic progress. If median income continues to stagnate while the costs of higher education, medical care, housing, and child care outpace inflation, more Washingtonians will struggle to meet basic needs (see fact sheet).
Rising poverty and stagnant incomes do not have to be a permanent part of the economic landscape. An equitable economy that gives everyone the chance to get ahead is the only path forward to keep Washington state a place where individuals, families, businesses, and communities can thrive.
Policymakers should pursue the following strategies to support an economy that works for all Washingtonians:
Reducing income inequality and poverty is possible if lawmakers establish a shared goal to make it happen. The cost of doing nothing is too great and puts the future of our children, families, businesses, and the economy at risk.
(1) Data analysis of income gains by quintile provided by Dr. Jennifer Romich with the University of Washington’s West Coast Poverty Center.