Your zip code doesn’t determine your path in life, but it can have a lot to do with the challenges and opportunities you face along that path. That reality, known as economic mobility, was the topic Thursday, Feb. 6 at Commissioner Lori Stegmann’s East County Issue Forum at Gresham City Hall.
The East County Issue Forum is a monthly event aimed at connecting East County residents to their commissioner. Each meeting revolves around one topic affecting East County and includes experts from the private, public and nonprofit spheres.
East County accounts for 41% of Multnomah County’s total population. It’s also more diverse, with 26% of residents identifying as non-Hispanic, non-white. At the same time, it’s lower income, higher poverty, less educated, and more cost burdened. That information, Commissioner Stegmann said, is crucial information moving forward, as the County looks to make targeted investments in the community.
“It is a high priority for my office,” Commissioner Stegmann said. “We are deeply familiar with the struggles our communities face every day. But we also know how vibrant and resilient our communities are, and that there is strength in diversity.”
The event included a presentation of a digital map of East County, which highlighted the economic mobility of the community on a block-by-block basis. The conversation focused on using that information to envision new ways to improve opportunities for East County residents.
Using Census and local data, the presentation revealed stark realities about the state of East County through a measurement called the Economic Mobility Marginalization Index. The index incorporates health, education, economic, demographic, and other variables to measure marginalization on a scale of 1-10. Among the findings:
50% of households are earning less than $50,000 a year
20% of residents over 25 have a Bachelor’s degree or higher
35% of households pay more than half their annual income toward housing costs
Some adjacent neighborhoods showed starkly different marginalization scores. Rockwood, for example, scored a 7.2, where median incomes are at $28,000. At the same time, nearby Northwest Gresham scored a 3.2, including a median income of $61,000.
“There are many drivers when it comes to economic mobility,” said Rebecca Stavenjord, Chief of Staff to Commissioner Stegmann. “Your zip code has a lot to do with the challenges and opportunities you face along that path in life.”
By mapping out where marginalization may occur in areas of East County, the tool is expected to help local leaders and jurisdictions, including Multnomah County, develop policies and programs aimed at improving outcomes for the most underrepresented zip codes.
And as the country looks ahead to the 2020 Census, Commissioner Stegmann said, it’s especially important for an accurate count in East County, where the community stands to benefit from additional investments.
“We must be intentional, so that we are well equipped to make the necessary gains so valued here in East County,” Commissioner Stegmann said. “I cannot express how excited I am to announce about the future of this conversation and the leveraged investments we can make together.”
To find out more about economic marginalization in Multnomah County, view the Economic Mobility Marginalization Index.