Economic Disparities and Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

What lessons have Oregonians learned from the pandemic? Do they believe there are Oregonians who have been impacted by economic disparity?

Image: jar, labeled "rainy day fund"

From April 1st through 6th, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including how they feel about issues related to social class and economic disparities. This online survey consisted of 601 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Responses were analyzed and categorized to allow for a better understanding of trends in Oregonians’ values and beliefs. The survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±2.4% to ±4.0% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. Findings will include a citation of the relevant question, which can be referenced in the annotated questionnaire and tabs at the bottom of the page.

Economic Disparities

  • A strong majority of Oregonians (68%) feel there are fellow Oregonians who have experienced economic disparities based on race and ethnicity (37% agree strongly, 31% agree somewhat).  A quarter (25%) disagree.  Strong majorities in nearly every demographic subgroup agree (Q22). 
  • Oregonians who feel there are economic disparities believe the disparities have worsened during the pandemic (66%). Only 6% believe they have improved and 25% feel they have stayed the same. This finding also extends across all demographic subgroups (Q23).

Graph 1: Do you agree or disagree that there are Oregonians who have experienced economic disparities based on race and ethnicity?: 68% total agree; 31% somewhat agree; 37% strongly agree; 25% total disagree; 14% somewhat disagree; 11% strongly disagree; 6% don't know.
Graph 2: During the pandemic, have disparities grown worse, improved, or stayed about the same?: 66% worsened; 6% improved; 25% stayed about the same; 4% don't know.

Lessons Learned

A plurality of Oregonians (48%) feel we have learned things from the pandemic that will help us through economic hard times in the future, 30% feel we haven’t, and 22% are unsure   Higher educated Oregonians and higher income households were the most positive (Q24). 

When asked what lessons they learned from the pandemic to help them get through economic hard times in the future, Oregonians mention a variety of things including better financial planning and budgeting, living simpler lives, living more healthy lives, continuing to wear masks, and to socially distance, and to value family and friends more. Here are some representative quotes (Q25).

What lessons have been learned: value schools and teachers; emergency fund; interconnected; homelessness; take care of our health; plan; public health; be prepared; community; work together; self-reliance; creativity; support; flexibility; budgeting; savings; cooking at home; friends; values; relationships; healthcare; work from home; reduce spending; importance of social interaction; prioritize; adaptability; appreciation; resiliency; live with less; essential workers

“Hopefully, we have learned to value family and friends more than before. To be thankful for good health; to do a better job of practicing basic hygiene; to value and defend our freedom and independence.”

Female, age 65+, Columbia County, white

“Keep a financial cushion, don’t live on the bleeding edge of your income.”

Male, age 45-64, Washington County, white

“Resources to feed your family, working with your community to find resources to pay for bills, low-income programs, saving extra funds for emergencies, living closer to or with family to reduce cost.”

Male, 18-29, Multnomah County, Asian or Pacific Islander

“In the case of my family, to optimize resources to meet current basic needs.”

Male, age 30-44, Deschutes County, Hispanic or Latinx

“I think we learned the importance of saving, helping one another, and realizing that we are all inter-connected. I think we learned how to do more with less.”

Female, age 30-44, Washington County, Black or African American

“How to be more resilient and take care of ourselves and families. How to make do.”

Female, age 65+, Lane County, white

Demographic Trends

Identifying what unites us, understanding what divides us.

  • Eighty percent of Oregonians of color (80%) agree that Oregonians have experienced economic disparities based on race and ethnicity compared to whites.  About the same percentage of both groups agree that the disparities grew worse during the pandemic.  They also felt similarly (48%-47%) that Oregonians have learned things from the pandemic that will help them through economic hard times in the future (Q22-Q24).
  • For all these questions, rural Oregonians were less affirmative than urban residents.  They were less likely to agree that there are disparities, that they got worse during the pandemic, and that we’ve learned lessons that will help us through economic hard times in the future (Q22-Q24).   

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