The face of greater Portland is changing. Some of that change has to do with policy choices made across the region in the past 150 years; other changes have to do with national demographic trends working their way through the metro area.
Here’s a look at some of those changes taking place in our region – and how they impact some groups more than others.
1. Diversity is growing in the Portland region – and dispersing.
Oregon has not been historically welcoming to people of color, and that has demographic impacts that have persisted. But communities of color are growing in their share of the Portland region's population, and they're less concentrated in Multnomah County than they once were.
In 1960, Clackamas and Washington counties had a combined population of 205,275. According to that year's Census, 153 of them were black and 965 were neither white nor black. In Multnomah County, about 16,000 people of the county's total population of 523,000 people were black – the vast majority of the state's 18,000 black residents, most of them redlined into North and inner Northeast Portland.
By 2010, Multnomah County had 530,000 white, non-Hispanic residents – about 72 percent of its total population of 735,334 residents. The black population had grown to 41,000 residents, still the majority of Oregon's 69,000 black residents but not the overwhelming majority it was four decades earlier.
In 2010, about 220,000 residents of Clackamas and Washington counties identified as Hispanic or a race other than white – about a quarter of their total population.
In 1980, the first year the Census reliably tracked Hispanic population figures, there were about 21,000 Hispanics in greater Portland – about 2 percent of the tri-county population. By 2014, that number was estimated to be 202,000 – close to 12 percent.
Overall, communities of color saw their share of greater Portland's population rise from barely 3 percent in 1960 to almost 26 percent in 2010.
2. In a state with dismal high school graduation rates, it's worse for many people of color.
About 74 percent of Oregon high school students earn a diploma. That’s among the lowest rates in the country.
The numbers are even worse for many communities of color, particularly black, Hispanic and Native American students.
Just 65 percent of black and Hispanic students from the Oregon side of the Portland metro area graduated from high school in 2015, a full 14 percentage points below their white peers. And of the 420 Native American high school seniors in the Portland metro area, just 249 were awarded diplomas – 59 percent.
One factor feeding into K-12 success is outside support. People without means are increasingly concentrated in high-poverty areas, where schools don't get as much parental support and parents spend hours in traffic or on buses every week rather than with their families.
Some Westside and central Portland schools have launched fundraising campaigns that clear $100,000 easily in a year. Entire school districts in East Portland aren't able to fundraise that much. So wrap-around programs like day camps, music programs, sports, dances, field trips and language instruction are still more likely to happen in wealthier communities than places of high poverty.
This isn’t to say the news is all bad as far as education goes. Portland is one of the country’s best-educated cities – in large part because of in-migration. Even though Oregonians aren’t earning degrees at the same rate as their national peers, Oregon imports graduates to fill job openings.
About 30 percent of Americans have college degrees, a number that drops to about 20 percent for blacks. But more than 25 percent of blacks in the Portland metro have college degrees.
3. Blacks and Hispanics in the Portland region earn less than two-thirds what whites do.
It goes without saying that a high school diploma is a major indicator of earning potential, and we see that in Portland-area wages. The median household income for blacks in greater Portland is just more than half of what it is for whites – $35,000 compared to $62,000. Hispanics also face a wage gap, making about $41,000 per household.
4. Displacement can mean longer commutes.
When you don't make as much money, you don't get to be as choosy about where you live – and more and more people of color are making their homes in East Portland and east Multnomah County. In 2010, about 20 percent of Multnomah County's blacks and 24 percent of Multnomah County's Hispanics lived in East Portland, which has 16 percent of Multnomah County's residents overall.
They're also spending more time getting to and from work, because the areas with lower housing costs have some of the worst transit access and longest road commutes in greater Portland. Transit riders from east of I-205 spending nearly an hour each way getting to work.
5. Today's youth are far more diverse – but they're also more likely to live in poverty.
Greater Portland’s schools are getting more diverse. From 2000 to 2016, the number of majority-white schools in the region on the Oregon side of the Columbia River has dropped from 414 to 277, and the number of majority-nonwhite schools has increased from 43 to 130.
Use the slider on this map to glimpse changes from 2000 to 2015. (Note: Works best in Chrome, Firefox or Safari.)
The number of majority-nonwhite "Title 1" schools – meaning more than half the students were poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunch – increased from 105 in 2011-12 to 110 in 2015-16. Majority-white Title 1 schools dropped in that same timeframe.
The racial disparity in childhood poverty is staggering in the Portland metro. From 2010-2014, 12.3 percent of white children lived in poverty. For that same period, 48.6 percent of black children lived in poverty, up 11 points from 2005-2009.
6. Black youth are far more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.
A system that fails some of its students leads to lower incomes, which leads to concentrations of poverty and schools that don’t have enough resources.
That can cause different challenges. A 2013 report identified that a 5-point graduation rate increase in Oregon could save the state $114 million in crime-related costs. A 2009 study found that high school dropouts were 63 times more likely to be put in jail.
And that doesn't even account for institutional racism.
In 2014, 9 out of every 1,000 white teens in Oregon were referred to the criminal justice system for property or violent crimes. Just 2.5 out of every 1,000 Asian teens were referred. Eight of every 1,000 Hispanics were referred.
But for every 1,000 blacks in the Portland metro between the ages of 10-17, 35.1 were referred to the criminal justice system – almost four times as many as white teens.
7. Poverty cycles back on itself.
Study after study have shown that families in poor neighborhoods have worse outcomes in life – health, education, income – than families in wealthy neighborhoods.
And new research shows the outcomes aren't intrinsic in the individual – that it's the community around the individual that leads to the outcomes. For example, people on housing assistance living in a wealthy neighborhood made 30 percent more income than people on assistance living in a poor neighborhood.
So what can greater Portland do about that? A recent report from Metro identified 10 areas where the region can do better in improving equity in the region. Learn more in the next part of this Regional Snapshot.