UW News

September 13, 2018

Poverty rates hold steady, average incomes continue to increase in Seattle area and Washington state

UW News

image of piggy bank

The share of Washingtonians living below the federal poverty threshold declined slightly from 11.3 percent to 11 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to new Census data released Thursday. While this change was not statistically significant, the 2017 poverty rate remains below the post-recession high of 14.1 percent in 2013.

Washington was one of 28 states and the District of Columbia where poverty rates remained statistically unchanged from the prior year. During that period, poverty rates declined in 20 states and increased in two states (Delaware and West Virginia).

There was a small but statistically significant decline in the poverty rate in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area, from 9.6 percent in 2016 to 9 percent in 2017, but the 2017 rates remained statistically unchanged in King County and Seattle (9.3 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively).

“I would have liked to see a real decline in poverty given the income gains reported,” said Jennifer Romich, director of the West Coast Poverty Center at the University of Washington and an associate professor of social work. “The slow progress and local stagnation on poverty stands in contrast to how well middle and higher-earning households are doing.”

Households in Washington saw statistically significant increases in income between 2016 and 2017, following a steady trend for the last several years. State median household income rose 3.8 percent to $70,979 in 2017. At $86,822, median income was even higher in Seattle, an inflation-adjusted increase of more than $13,000 since 2013. King County posted similar gains, rising from $75,416 in 2013 to $89,675 in 2017. The proportion of high earners grew as well: Between 2012 and 2017, the share of households in King County with annual incomes of $200,000 has increased from 8.7 percent to 15.7 percent.


For more information, contact Romich at 206-616-6121 or romich@uw.edu or Melissa Martinson at melmart@uw.edu.