Thursday, November 17, 2011

Food Stamps Heat Map

Click to enlarge.

The data represents August 2011 participation rates (people participating divided by the state's population).

It's a smooth scale from green to yellow to red.

Pure green represents Wyoming's 6.3% participation rate.
Pure red represents Mississippi's 20.0% participation rate.

So here's the question of the day. What's up with Oregon's 19.2% participation rate?

Source Data:
List of U.S. states and territories by population
St. Louis Fed: Unemployment Rate in Oregon


Mr Slippery said...

45 million people getting free food can't be wrong. People in Oregan must be smarter than people in other states to get so much free food.


Stagflationary Mark said...

Mr Slippery,

My EBT? Priceless!

(Literally. What's the point of pricing something if it is ultimately free?)

Who Struck John said...

BLS says that in Oregon, U3 over the last year has averaged 9.7%, but U6 has averaged 17.9%. This was U3 unemployment by county a year ago; it hasn't changed much since. There's a lot of unemployed folk and a lot of working-poor self-employed folk in rural Oregon. Factor in that the stimulus was heavily weighted to urban areas, and you can deduce a very large demand for food stamps out in the sticks.

Stagflationary Mark said...

Who Struck John,

I grew up in the sticks in rural Washington. It's wheat country.

Check out Whitman County, WA.

The world loves our wheat apparently.

That said, my hometown looked a bit like a ghost town the last time I visited it (2002?). If one is looking for a job and is therefore planning to move there, I doubt there would be much luck.

Neil said...

WSJ has it. There are a lot of people out there in the sticks living on welfare and cash jobs.

Oregon's rural economy never did recover from the Clinton-era policies that crushed the extractive industries. Metro Portland's tech growth masks the aggregate numbers (and really, Washington County's numbers are masking the metro area numbers).

It's Appalachia-cadia, and there's only so many dreamcatchers you can sell in town.

Who Struck John said...

Yep, Neil, that's pretty much spot on. The western Appalachians, indeed. I grew up on the southern Oregon coast ... I have more than a passing acquaintance with poverty in rural Oregon.

They used to say that if you went to eastern Oregon, you had to bring your own job. The map I linked to shows that the more things change, the more that remains the same.

Stagflationary Mark said...

Neil (& Who Struck John),

It's Appalachia-cadia, and there's only so many dreamcatchers you can sell in town.

My hometown was certainly a dreamcatcher free workplace!

A few tried bringing their jobs to town only to find out the locals weren't buying it.

There was a tiny grocery store that never did well. It was a recurring cycle.

1. An "out-of-towner" would move in and make a go of it. The dream of running one's own store in a small rural town kept luring them in.

2. It had to compete with the larger existing local grocery store for its fairly loyal customers.

3. From what I could see even as a young kid, it would fail to do so and there is nothing the owner of the store could have done about it.

4. Rinse and repeat.

It was hard to watch. I don't think people understand how many decades it would take to not be an "out-of-towner". I lived there from the age of 6 to the age of 18. There was still plenty of "out-of-towner" left in me as I left for greener pastures.

Stagflationary Mark said...

Why does North Dakota have an unemployment rate of 3.5%?

When I think of rural I think of North Dakota. Am I wrong to do so? It's the 4th most rural state (by population density). While Oregon isn't all that dense, it is still 4x more dense than North Dakota.

So why can't Oregon do better than it is?

Oregon Exports

Computer & Electronic Products 47%

Oregon isn't exactly in the farm belt. Could that explain it?

Who Struck John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Audrey said...


My sister and brother-in-law just moved to Oregon.

They took their own jobs - internet businesses.

Good to see they are on trend.


Stagflationary Mark said...

Audrey, is not yet taken! ;)

Audrey said...


I'll let them know, but I think they think they have a better gig.

She's a long time painter and workshop leader, and he runs a website for painters to sell paintings.

They can do it anywhere.

I apologize in advance to the powers that be for being sarcastic at the expense of my sister, but I'm sure their businesses will continue to be successful for many many years to come. I mean, given how learning how to paint a still life, and buying paintings are necessities...

They might wish they had bought gold toe socks or Greek bonds here in a few months or years...

Neil said...

As it happens, NoDak is also a place I know something about. I hadn't thought about it before, but comparing Oregon and ND makes an interesting study in extremes.

North Dakota is doing well specifically because the land is largely privately owned, and state land-use laws are geared toward resource utilization rather than environmental preservation. Fargo has some technology industry, largely geared toward equipment for the oil and ag industries, but nothing like the level of capital investment Portland has. I'd be curious to know the aggregate ROI of the two metro areas, though.

Oregon has large areas of federally-owned land (which has been placed pretty much off-limits for economic use of any kind), and has highly restrictive land-use laws designed to prevent the development of privately-owned natural resources beyond what was already in use in the 80's, and to roll back resource utilization where possible. Since most of the capital value of a rural area is obviously in resource development, that doesn't leave a whole lot of options.

It makes me think of Royal Forests and Forest Law of Norman England and King John's abuses of the land-use laws. That was one of the motivations behind the Magna Carta, and forest utilization is specifically addressed by that document. Wonder if there's a Robin of Tillamook waiting in the wings....

Neil said...

To be fair, I should point out that North Dakota is probably also benefiting from ethanol subsidies to a greater extent than Oregon. They both have wheat country, but western Oregon grows a lot of high-value crops that aren't really grain substitutes.

Stagflationary Mark said...


As seen in the chart of this post, Oregon would seem to be the perfect destination for starving artists. Win win! ;)

Stagflationary Mark said...


I think we're getting to the bottom of this.

North Dakota's got the corn. Oregon's got the lumber (in the aftermath of a housing bust no less).


Vast forests have historically made Oregon one of the nation's major timber production and logging states, but forest fires (such as the Tillamook Burn), over-harvesting, and lawsuits over the proper management of the extensive federal forest holdings have reduced the timber produced. According to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, between 1989 and 2001 the amount of timber harvested from federal lands dropped some 96%, from 4,333 million to 173 million board feet (10,000,000 to 408,000 m3), although harvest levels on private land have remained relatively constant.

Well, there you go.

Even the shift in recent years towards finished goods such as paper and building materials has not slowed the decline of the timber industry in the state. The effects of this decline have included Weyerhaeuser's acquisition of Portland-based Willamette Industries in January 2002, the relocation of Louisiana-Pacific's corporate headquarters from Portland to Nashville, and the decline of former lumber company towns such as Gilchrist. Despite these changes, Oregon still leads the United States in softwood lumber production; in 2001, 6,056 million board feet (14,000,000 m3) was produced in Oregon, compared with 4,257 million board feet (10,050,000 m3) in Washington, 2,731 million board feet (6,444,000 m3) in California, 2,413 million board feet (5,694,000 m3) in Georgia, and 2,327 million board feet (5,491,000 m3) in Mississippi. The slow of the timber and lumber industry has caused high unemployment rates in rural areas.