Almost Half of All Births in Spokane Paid for by Medicaid

Almost half of all births in Spokane are paid for by Medicaid assistance. Note the enormous rise from about 35% in the year 2000 to about 45% in the year 2008. This is a consequence of the growing poverty and chronic low wages in Spokane.

Chart source: Community Indicators of Spokane.

Spokane Income Growth Lags the State

The chart supports my hypothesis from last week – Spokane growth is lagging behind elsewhere. Wage earners in Spokane are falling further and further behind the rest of the state, and also the nation (not shown).

From the slope of the two trend lines, WA state income growth is growing twice as fast as income growth in Spokane.


Why the spike in Spokane incomes in 2009? Possibly due to the layoffs of lower paid workers leaving us with more higher paid workers. Keep in mind that almost 10% of local jobs disappeared during this recession. The jobs lost were not high paid health care or good paying government jobs. Laying off lower paid workers causes the average and median wages for the area to move higher. This is not a sustainable way of increasing average and median incomes in the area!

How Spokane Promotes Itself

Location of Chelan County where the Lake Chela...

Image via Wikipedia

Here is how Spokane promotes itself – this quote is from the Washington State website “”:

Spokane, the second-largest city in Washington state, serves as the business, transportation, medical, industrial, and cultural hub of the Inland Northwest.

Spokane’s low business costs and productive workforce make this area the ideal place to relocate a business.

The two competitive advantages are “low business costs” which is a direct proxy for “low wages/poverty”, and “productive workforce”, which means productive per unit  – or low wages – for the purpose of business relocation to Spokane. As I have written about on these pages, my hypothesis is that Spokane has long benefited from national recessions because firms then moved to reduce costs by moving to lower cost cities, like Spokane. In a globalized economy, Spokane is no longer the lowest cost provider. This strategy of promoting our region’s chronic low wages will not be successful to achieve goals of raising wages and opportunities. Instead, we will get more casino, restaurant, hotel and call center jobs, plus the usual government/education/health care jobs.

The source for these quotes is the Spokane page on

Compare Spokane’s two competitive advantages to those of other regions in the State.

Benton County offers electric rates that are among the lowest in the nation and an excellent transportation network that includes highways, two national railroads and commercial air and barge services.  Benton County is a top choice for companies seeking access to major markets and affordable power.

Ranked as one of the top ten high technology communities in the nation, Benton County features an emphasis on innovation and technology. The Tri Cities boasts an employment rate of 19% in technology and topped the list as the most secure mid-sized city in America.

Here is how King County is promoted:

King County is the largest business center in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest with cutting-edge companies and an unmatched spirit of innovation. The county is home to some of the world’s most successful businesses including, Boeing Commercial Airplanes,Costco, Starbucks, Safeco, and many more. The highly educated workforce, exceptional quality of life, entrepreneurial culture, and strategic location – midway between Asia and Europe – attract companies to this area.

King County is a leading global center for several emerging industries, including aerospace, biotechnology, clean technology, information technology, and international trade and logistics. In 2005, Seattle was ranked the most well educated city in the country. : King County.

And Chelan County:

Located in the heart of Washington state, Chelan County offers business and industry a state-of-the-art fiber optic highway, videoconferencing, meeting and training facilities.

Chelan County also boasts some of the lowest power rates in the country, generated by the Columbia river hydroelectric dams, and healthy and vibrant agriculture and tourism industries.

The Spokane region’s economic promotional strategy seems as incoherent as the incoherent clustering strategy (and also).

Spokane Tribe proposes 2.2 million sq ft casino complex

Spokane Indians Baseball

Would be built in Airway Heights – however, to do so will require some regulatory exemptions and changes to “how the government enforces the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act“.

Source: Proposed Airway Heights Casino Could Have National Implications — SPOKANE, Wash., Sept. 23 /PRNewswire/ —.

(The photo is of Avista Stadium where the Spokane Indians minor league baseball team plays. I understand the team name is licensed from the Spokane Tribe but is otherwise unaffiliated with the Tribe.)

Call center expands in Spokane

The Peyton Building in Spokane, Washington

Image via Wikipedia

West Corp., an Omaha-based call center business that has operations in Spokane, said it will hire 190 more permanent and temporary workers here.

via Call center operation to hire 190 in Spokane – Office Hours – – Sept. 29, 2010.


But not the high skilled, high paying jobs that Spokane needs to escape its reputation for chronic low wage jobs.

2010 High School Drop Out Rates Around Spokane

The Mead School District's newest school, Mt. ...

Image via Wikipedia

As it stands for Spokane’s Class of 2010 2,272 students started as freshman but only 1,479 graduated last June, a graduation rate of 65-percent.

The school with the lowest rate was Rogers High School; 511 students started as freshmen but only 219 graduated, a graduation rate of just 43-percent. The school with the highest number of graduates in Spokane is Ferris High School with about 75-percent.

In comparison to Spokane’s overall graduation rate of 65-percent, Central Valley’s rate is 67-percent and Tacoma’s schools boast a 81-percent graduation rate.

via Are Schools Failing Our Kids? – News Story – KXLY Spokane.

(Photo is of Mt. Spokane High School whose graduation rate is not specified in the linked article. Wanted to clarify that. The Mead SD has an on time graduation rate over 85%.)

Update: Due to the popularity of this item, I have added this link to the State’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction where you can look up specific data about each district and school in the state. Look for the “Summary” item at the upper left and click on the down arrow to choose the specific school district and click on “Go”. Look for the “On time” and “Extended” graduation rates.

2nd Update: Spokane Schools have now improved their graduation rate to 70%.

Latest graduation rates improved.  Spokane 70.2%, Central V, 84.6%, East V, 97.2% and West Valley, 96.3%.


Commercial real estate vacancy rates in Spokane

As of September 26, 2010:

  • Office space vacancy rate: 17.84% (unchanged from last week as of Sep 28)
  • Industrial/Flex vacancy rate: 20.39% (up from 20.26% last week)
  • Retail vacancy rate: 23.23% (down from 23.31% last week). – Market Statistics – All Regions.