Portland has the 8th highest income for full time workers among the 50 largest US cities. From 2011 to 2021, the median income of Portland workers increased by 39%, adjusting for inflation. Among the 50 largest US cities, that was the 4th largest increase in income.
Portland became home to an additional 53,000 working-age individuals from 2011 to 2021, of which 80% were in the highest income quintile. The number of people in the highest income quintile more than doubled. The number of high-income individuals grew seven times faster than middle-income individuals.
Portland Employment by Income Quintile, Full Time Workers – 2011 and 2021
Source: US Census ACS Table S2001
While growth of higher wage, knowledge industry jobs is certainly a positive economic sign, we’re also seeing how growth in this “next economy” is contributing to the disappearance of the middle class, with a relatively flat level of growth in middle-wage employment opportunities.
And when we divide Portlanders into five income quintiles, we see the stark impact of systemic racism and inequitable opportunities.
Representation of BIPOC Portlanders by Income Quintile
Black, Indigenous and all people of color are disproportionally underrepresented in the top two quintiles, and overrepresented in the bottom two quintiles – with almost half of the people making less than $38,400 identifying as POC.
Today, median household income for white households is $77,513 and for Black households is $36,783.
We can see that all populations of color are underrepresented in management occupations, but overrepresented in lower wage service and production occupations.
Difference in City of Portland Workforce Demographics and Occupation Representation, 2020
Source: RW Ventures analysis of American Community Survey data
Prosper Portland remains committed to develop and support programming that takes these income disparities into consideration. Through Portland Means Progress, local private sector businesses commit to playing their part in developing a more inclusive economy in Portland. In 2021, Portland Means Progress businesses partnered with The Contingent’s Emerging Leaders program to host 42 interns. These internships provide critical pathways to leadership opportunities for BIPOC students and aspiring professionals.
To learn more about Portland Means Progress partnership with The Contingent, review our 2021 Impact Report.
Portland has many promising traded sector industry clusters, including Green Cities, Athletic & Outdoor, Metals & Machinery, and Food & Beverage Manufacturing. It also has cross-cutting functional clusters around headquarters, software and professional services that intersect with and support these key clusters. Together, these clusters offer major growth opportunities – some in established, growing industries (e.g., Athletic & Outdoor, Software), some more emergent (e.g., Green Cities innovations around grid modernization), and others in legacy industries with a strong employment base and lower barrier to entry positions (e.g. Metals & Machinery).
Staggering wealth inequality continues to be a significant challenge across the country. Multigenerational wealth created from property and business ownership drives much of this disparity; even gains in employment and income show little progress in erasing differences in wealth.
Continuing challenges due to the pandemic, perceptions of reduced public safety, and the increasing preference toward remote work have reduced the presence of employees and visitors in Portland's Central City.
The need for access to employment centers has driven Prosper Portland’s strategic investments in East Portland. In collaboration with other public partners, Prosper Portland has developed five-year action plans in two East Portland Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to determine priorities and investments in affordable housing, home repairs, community amenities, commercial spaces for local businesses, or other eligible projects.
Like all major American cities, Portland saw many business closures in the retail industry with the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. We continue to see the effects of that shock on rent and vacancy statistics for commercial retail space.