Mary King Head Shot 2019.jpeg

Mary King

Professor Emerita of Economics, Portland State University

About Mary

King is a labor economist, particularly focused on the public provision of high quality preschool and childcare, and other economic policy strategies that improve economic opportunities and outcomes for women, people of color and people from low-income backgrounds.  King has been investigating how to progressively finance critical human needs at the state and local level, with the hope of creating models for national efforts. King is the Vice President of the Board for the Oregon Center for Public Policy, a founding board member of Family Forward Oregon and past President of both AAUP-Oregon and PSU-AAUP.


No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Opinion: "A Strong Economic Case for Federal Investment in Universal Preschool," Mary King, Inequality, December 8, 2021.
Quoted by in "The Unintended Consequences of Universal Preschool," EdSurge, May 10, 2021.
Opinion: "A New National Model for Preschool and Childcare in the U.S.," Mary King, Care Work and the Economy, January 15, 2021.
Opinion: "On Universal Preschool, Multnomah County, Oregon, Moves to the Head of the Class," Mary King (with Olivia Katbi Smith), The American Prospect, November 10, 2020.
Opinion: "The Real Impact of Universal Preschool and a Tax on the Top 5%," Mary King, Street Roots, January 24, 2020.
Opinion: "Wall Street Speculators and the Loss of Affordable Housing," Mary King, Street Roots, September 13, 2019.
Opinion: "PERS Reform Sticks It to Teachers, Other Underpaid Public Employees," Mary King, Street Roots, May 10, 2019.
Opinion: "How Portland Should Raise Revenue for Parks, Mental Health, and Housing," Mary King, The Oregonian, May 5, 2019.
Opinion: "Big Money Prevents Real Progress on Rent Stabilization," Mary King, Street Roots, March 1, 2019.
Opinion: "Local Strategies to Fight the Federal Government's Class War," Mary King, Street Roots, March 16, 2018.
Opinion: "Fix Portland's Housing Crisis: Tax Big Businesses and the Wealthy," Mary King, Street Roots, November 17, 2017.
Opinion: "My View: Different Wage Studies Get Different Results," Mary King, Portland Tribune, October 5, 2017.
Opinion: "A Progressive Economic Agenda for Portland," Mary King, Street Roots, August 4, 2017.
Opinion: "Rent Stabilization: It's Portland's Time," Mary King, Street Roots, April 20, 2017.


"The Growing Need for “Non-Traditional Hours” Met by Underpaid In-Home Providers" (with Lisa Dodson, Larissa Petrucci, Lola Loustaunau, and Ellen Kaye Scott). Labor Education and Research Center (2022).

Describes the long, irregular, badly paid and too often unpaid hours home-based childcare providers work to care for the children of Oregon’s working class families.

"Oregon’s Unmet Child Care Needs: It’s Time to Invest - Our Future Depends on It," (with Lisa Dodson), Family Forward Oregon, September 2019.

Examines the crisis in affordable child care on working families, and its relationship to high rates of young children living in poverty.

"Exploitation of Immigrant Carpenters in Portland: Community Strategies for Justice," Portland Jobs with Justice, July 2017.

Presents the significant, illegal abuses experienced by immigrant construction workers on the job, including wage theft; poor safety practices and injury; lack of drinking water, protective equipment and legally required breaks; and physical intimidation of those who speak out. Community Benefits Agreements for projects involving public dollars, such as the one piloted by the City of Portland Water Bureau, are the most effective tool we have for ensuring decent working conditions and opportunities for women, people of color and people from low-income backgrounds.

"The Impact on Oregonians of the Rise of Irregular Scheduling," (with Ellen K. Scott and Raahi Reddy), University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center, February 2017.

Examines the impacts of wildly variable work schedules, changed with little notice, that are now commonplace in retail, food service, hospitality and other industries. Interviews and analysis of American Community Survey data show that these occupations have become low-wage poverty traps that make it impossible for employees to arrange regular childcare, attend school, obtain a second job, plan family activities or even get enough sleep. Survey respondents reported severe stress on family lives and relationships, financial difficulties and negative health impacts. A few months after this report was written, Oregon became the first state to pass a relatively comprehensive scheduling law.

"Oregon's Care Economy: The Case for Public Investment," (with Laura Dresser and Raahi Reddy), COWS - University of Wisconsin, February 2017.

Shows that Oregon's large care economy - paid and unpaid care for children, seniors, the ill and adults with developmental disabilities - is largely invisible, underfunded, and a source of stress, poverty, inequality and hardship for Oregonian families. Women, people of color and the working poor are the hardest hit by unpaid care demands, insufficient care and low wages for care work regardless of education and skills. A strong economic case for public investment in care is based on high rates of return and improved quality of life.

"Assessment of the Socio-economic Impacts of SB 1080 on Immigrant Groups: Final Report SR 500-270," (with John G. Corbett, John Chiappetta, and Anabel López Salinas), Oregon Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, June 2011.

Investigates the impact of the loss of access to drivers licenses for undocumented, predominantly Mexican-born, immigrants in Oregon, as a result of new state legislation. Interviews with nearly 400 Spanish-speaking Oregon residents reveal significant distress, uncertainty and fear of deportation, as well as reduced access to employment, education, medical and social services, church attendance and recreation.

"Betwixt and Between: The Spectrum of Formality Revealed in the Labor Market Experiences of Mexican Migrant Workers in the U.S." (with Carrie Cobb and Leopoldo Rodriguez). The Review of Radical Political Economics 41, no. 3 (2009): 365-371.

Interviews with Mexican immigrant workers in Portland, Oregon reveal them to be concentrated in particular occupations, working in what we term a "semi-formal" labor market. That labor market is characterized by a lack of compliance with minimum wage and over-time laws, frequent turnover, a limited range of earnings and reliance on migrant social networks to substitute for management action in hiring and vacation replacement.

"Squaring Up: Policy Strategies to Raise Women's Incomes in the United States" (University of Michigan Press, 2001).

Describes effective policy solutions to raise women’s incomes toward parity men’s.  Policy strategies fall into three categories: (1) those aimed at reducing the negative impact of childrearing on women's incomes (strengthening our anti-poverty programs, subsidizing childcare, providing public support for parents and equitable social security); (2) those that raise the pay for "women's jobs," (increasing the minimum wage, implementing pay equity, and union organizing); and (3) those intended to move women into higher paid jobs (affirmative action and access to the skilled trades and STEM occupations).