Spokane Trends Blog

Welcome to Spokane County!

Spokane County and environs form the 99th largest MSA by population, but combines the best of both a large and small city environment. A large, rushing river runs through the County, with lakes and mountains within a half an hour drive. The community is home for four universities, a diversifying economy, significant sports and cultural events.

Recent Updates:


Non-employer Establishments, Total & Per 1,000 Residents

This measure captures the number of registered businesses that are sole proprietorships. As of 2021 (the latest year for available data), Spokane County had about 35,000 of these business entities. Expressed as a per capita rate, this was about three quarters of the U.S. result that year but nearly equal to the Washington rate. 

Quarterly Residential Building Permits & Number per 1,000 Residents

These building permits offer a window into near-term construction in the residential sector. For the first quarter of this year, the tally of all jurisdictions in the county amounted to 786. This is considerably lower than the permits in the same quarter from the prior two years (1,087 and 1,116). Yet on a population basis, the County rate is still higher than the Washington state average.

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Total and Share of Overall Population Living in Poverty

The estimated number of county residents living at or below the federal poverty threshold in 2022 was about 65,000. This represents an increase of about 6,000 from 2021 and marks a return to pre-pandemic levels. The 2022 estimate implies a poverty rate of approximately 12%, above Washington’s but about equal to that of the U.S. 


STEM & Health Degrees Granted at Spokane County Higher Education Institutions

The number of degrees issued by Spokane higher ed institutions in these high demand fields has largely plateaued since 2015. Bachelor’s and associate’s degrees have stayed stable while the count of Master’s degrees has diminished. In contrast, the number of doctorates (Ph.D.’s & MDs) issued has climbed.

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Share of Low-income High School Graduates Enrolled in Higher Education within One Year of Graduation

The percentage of local, public-school graduates who are low income and matriculate to a 2- or 4-year, not-for-profit college or university has typically been below the percentage of students who are not low-income. However, the pandemic worsened the gap. For the class of 2021, about 1/3 of the County’s low-income seniors went on to higher ed. For the class of 2019, that share was 45%. 


Air Quality Days, by Severity Level

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency, continually monitors air quality in the county. The data are summarized as daily values, which are then are then classified as “good,” “moderate,” “unhealthy,” or “very unhealthy.” For 2023, the number of good air days in Spokane County was 281. This result met exactly the prior 10-year average in the county. The number, however, was below that of King & Pierce Counties.

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​Water Temperature Index of the Spokane & Little Spokane Rivers & Hangman Creek

A key component of surface water quality is temperature. Washington Department of Ecology summarizes water temperature in an annual index, with 100 the highest value. Values between 80 and 100 indicate “little concern” while values 40 and 80 imply “some concern”. For the most recent year of available data (2022), the temperature index of the Spokane and Little Spokane rivers were of little concern, but that of Hangman Creek was of some concern (62). 


Death by Leading Causes

2022 represented another year of falling death rates from cancer in Spokane County (18.7% vs 21.5% a decade prior). Heart disease and stroke rates have also fallen over the decade. However, Alzheimer’s disease has climbed as a cause of death over the period. Covid-19 was still responsible for over 4% of all deaths in 2022, obviously not a factor in 2013.

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Local Government Expenditures on Road Maintenance & Operations

The ability of local governments to maintain roads is a visible sign of their success. While an optimal measure would be a road quality index, that is not available. The Trends approximates quality by tracking expenditures on maintenance. For the most recent year of data (2022), total expenditures by all local governments in the county, expressed per capita, was about equal to the Washington average. Expressed on an income basis, road maintenance expenditures by the county’s jurisdictions were higher than the Washington average. 


list updated 06.20.24

The complete list of Spokane Trends can be found here.

The new Whitman County Trends website has just launched, with nearly 100 indicators to track areas such as education, housing, public health and safety, and economic vitality. The website, like its counterpart here and for other Washington counties, has been designed to present data readily accessible to people in local communities. Trends sites are used by schools, businesses, non-profit...

Graduating Interns

In this issue, we say goodbye to four graduating interns. They have accomplished so much over the past year at the institute. Left to right, they are:  Laura Velasquez-Neal (mechanical engineering), Jessica Phan (Visual Communications Design), Angelica Cortes (Data Analytics) and Miranda Carmona (Economics). Angelica and Miranda have each received the Frances Houston medal, awarded to 20 graduating seniors for excellence in academics. All four will do well wherever they go.

About The Institute

The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis is a research institute for applied regional research that provides easily accessible community indicator data. The Institute publishes seven community trend sites for nine Washington counties, all of which cover a variety of factors like economic vitality, health, housing, and more. The Institute’s work is aimed to promote data-based decision making and provide readily available and extensive data for communities across Washington state.

The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis’s website has been revamped! Check out the new and improved website here.