Yakima Valley Trends Blog

Did you know there are nearly 140 different community indicators on Yakima Valley Trends - each updated throughout the year? But which ones, and when?

This issue of the Yakima Valley Trends blog lists some of the most recently updated indicators on the Yakima Valley Trends website.  

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0.2.2 Total Single Parent Families with Children & as a Share of Total Families with Children

Families headed by one parent face extra challenges, among them financial. Census estimated the number in the county to be over 6,300 in 2022, with most of them headed by females. This puts single parent families at nearly one fifth of all families in the county. This rate is less than the U.S. rate but greater than the Washington’s. It has declined from 25% in 2019. 


1.1.1 Total Market Value of Crops & Average Market Value per Farm 

In the recently released Census of Agriculture, the USDA estimated the market value of all crops in the county at $2.27 billion in 2022. The value per Yakima farm was nearly $900,000, far more than the average Washington state farm. 


3.3.1 Total Civilian Labor Force & Labor Force Participation Rate of Population Ages 16+  

As of the end of last year, the Yakima County labor force had not recovered from the pandemicAt 129,500, the number in the labor force was about 3,400 below the 2019 peak. Not surprisingly, the labor force participation rate, measured as the size of the labor force to the population 16 years or over, was also lower than the 2019 peak:  65% vs. 72%. This is still higher than the state average, however.   


4.1.2 Share of Entering Kindergarteners Meeting Standards of All 6 Domains of the WaKIDs Assessment

The WaKIDS assessment takes place in the fall for all children entering publicly supported kindergartens. As a “whole child” review of development to date, it measures “readiness” in six domains:  cognitive, literacy, math, language, social/emotional and physical. The most recent average for Yakima County revealed that about one third of all entering kindergartners were ready in all six domains. While considerably less than the state average (53%), the share is somewhat higher than in the fall of 2013 (30%). 

4.2.5 Extended Graduation Rate for Public High School English Language Learners (ELL) Students

English language learners face obstacles that native-born children typically do not. That is why Washington state schools have developed special curricula and protocols for teaching these students. One measure of success is the high school graduation rate, here measured as a 5-year rate for a cohort of entering 9th graders. For the cohort graduating last June, the rate was 75%. This is about equal to the state average and much improved from the County’s 2013 ELL graduating class, when it was 58%. 


4.3.1 Share of Students Meeting Math Standards as Measured by the Smarter Balance Assessment (SBA)

The SBA is designed to test mastery of both math and English language skills. This indicator tracks the share of 4th and 10th grade students who meet standards of the math SBA. The graph makes clear that Yakima County public school students have not (yet) recovered from the setback of the pandemic. In school year 2022-23, 35% and 17% of 4th and 10th graders, respectively, met standards. This is far below the rates of school year 2018-19 and the Washington state averages.


5.1.3 Annual Average of the 24-Hour PM 2.5 Concentration Levels

With fire season about to start, let’s consider a standard measure of air quality, the concentration of small (2.5 micrometers or less) in a cubic meter of air. Since 2004, the annual average has risen from about 8 to 10. While an increase of forest fires has undoubtedly played a role, so has the presence of airborne soil particles. (Click on the legend entries to simplify the graph.) 


7.1.1 Life Expectancy at Birth

The number of years a newborn is expected to live if current mortality rates held through the person’s lifetime is an “apex” measure of public health. Covid-19 dealt this measure a huge blow, with Yakima County expectancy plunging over three years between 2019 and 2020. Since then, it has slightly recovered. It still lags the U.S. estimate, unlike the pre-pandemic years. Yakima life expectancy has always been considerably lower than the Washington state average. 

7.2.2 Total Live Births by Females Ages 15-19 and Their Birth Rate

Teen births in Yakima County have plunged since the start of the century. Then the County tallied over 750. Most recently, the count was a bit over 210. The rates, whether for young teens (15-17) or older teens (18-19) have consequently plummeted as well. They are, however, still considerably higher than the state and U.S. averages.


8.2.3 Fair Market Rent (FMR)

FMR is a calculation by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) used to allocate some of its funds at the local level, especially section 8 vouchers. It is supposed to reflect the “middle” of the range of local rents, here in monthly terms. For 2024, HUD has set $997 for one-bedroom rent and $1,310 for two-bedroom units as the FMRs for Yakima County. These are considerably higher than FRM values for Grant County but lower than those in Walla Walla. 

8.3.3 Housing Affordability Index for First-Time Homebuyers

For decades, the ability of renters to move to home ownership status has been part of the American dream. This indicator, calculated by the University of Washington Real Estate Research Center, addresses the current affordability of that step for Yakima residents. If the value if 100 or higher, the housing market for first-time buyers is deemed affordable; if below, not affordable. The most recent value is 55, down considerably from 2021, but still better than the state average. 



list updated 5.15.24 

The complete list of Yakima Valley Trends can be found here.

New Intern Feature

Dorothy Bergland

Hometown: Spokane, WA

Major: Accounting

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2025

Post-graduation plans:
I plan to get my CPA and find work in Forensic Accounting.

After a few months of working on the Trends project, my favorite thing so far:
As a lifelong Washingtonian, the Trends project has given me the opportunity to get to know my state better. It is very exciting to get to do this research for each county that they in turn will use to shape improved public policies.