Maine’s median income falls in 2011, while poverty rate increases

New numbers released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau suggest Maine struggled through a stagnant economy in 2011, showing a decline in median household income and an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line.

Maine’s median household income in 2011 decreased 2.2 percent, from $47,069 in 2010 to $46,033, according to 2011 estimates from the American Community Survey, an annual nationwide survey that provides demographic data between the decennial census reports.

Some of Maine’s counties, including Cumberland and Penobscot counties, experienced a more precipitous drop in median household income.

In Penobscot County, median household income declined 5.3 percent between 2010 and 2011, from $42,964 to $40,669, according to the survey’s 2011 estimates.

Meanwhile, Cumberland County’s median household income decreased 4.4 percent between 2010 and 2011, from $58,562 to $55,985, according to the estimates.

Maine’s decline in household median income is not surprising given the lack of real job growth in the economy, according to Charles Colgan, a professor at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. However, it is significant, he told the Bangor Daily News. The fact median household income is “still declining by as much as 2 percent two years after the recession ended is not a good sign,” he said.

However, two counties fared well in 2011. York County increased its median household income from $54,880 in 2010 to $56,777 in 2011, an increase of nearly 3.5 percent. Colgan believes that increase is likely a result of the high proportion of retirement earnings in the county’s coastal communities. He would suspect Lincoln County experienced the same increase, though the American Community Survey 2011 estimates are not available for that county. (The survey only provides one-year estimates for six counties in Maine.)

The other county that fared well was Androscoggin County, which saw its median household income increase 8.5 percent in 2011, from $41,190 in 2010 to $44,689, according to survey estimates. Colgan wouldn’t venture a guess as to what caused that increase.

More Mainers lived in poverty in 2011 than the year before.

Last year, 14.1 percent of Mainers lived in poverty, compared with 12.9 percent the year before, according to the American Community Survey estimates. The Census Bureau uses a set of dollar value thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty.

The increase in the poverty rate is a big setback for Maine, Colgan said, noting that “14.1 percent is back to pretty much where we were a generation ago. We managed to get below that for a long time, but the recession has put us back to where we were because a lack of growth in incomes and lack of jobs and a bunch of other factors.”

The number and percentage of people in poverty increased in 17 states between 2010 and 2011, according to the Census Bureau.

The Maine county with the largest increase in the poverty rate was Aroostook County, which had 18.7 percent of residents living below the poverty line in 2011 compared with 12.9 percent in 2010, according to the survey’s estimates. Other counties also saw increases in their poverty rates between 2010 and 2011: Androscoggin (14.8 percent to 16.4 percent), Cumberland (10.4 percent to 12.7 percent), Kennebec (11 percent to 12 percent) and Penobscot (16.6 percent to 17.6 percent).

York County stood alone in decreasing its poverty rate, from 10.2 percent in 2010 to 9.7 percent in 2011, according to survey estimates.

Among single-female-parent homes where no husband was present, 30.7 percent lived below the poverty line in 2011. When children below 18 years old are added to the mix, that number increases to 39.2 percent. Those numbers, however, were relatively stable between 2010 and 2011.

“All of the numbers you’re talking about reflect the stagnant state of the economy in 2011,” Colgan said.

However, there were some bright spots in the 2011 estimates. One is that the percent of Maine residents 25 years old and older who hold at least a bachelor’s degree increased, from 26.8 percent in 2010 to 28.4 percent in 2011.

Health insurance coverage for young people also increased. Between 2009 and 2011, the percent of people age 19 to 25 who were covered by any type of health insurance increased from 74.1 percent to 81.4 percent, according to the estimates. When looking at the same population who were covered by just private insurance, the increase was from 56.3 percent to 61.1 percent.

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.



 's picture


We just ended Obama's "Summer of Recovery III". How can this be?

Maine voters will stream to the polls and vote for "four more years" of Obama, Michaud and Pingree.

I guess Mainers have to be abused mightily to connect the dots to the road to prosperity.


But I respect their right to make their own decisions.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Maine’s median income falls in 2011, while poverty rate increase

all 12.09.20 09:20 am ish ?
Hawai'i's is $66,666 . .s e r i o u s l y :)
But our housing co$ts a l o t more :D
We are islands . . /s Steve

JOHN PAINTER's picture

I'll venture a guess even if

I'll venture a guess even if Mr. "Colgan wouldn’t venture a guess as to what caused that increase."

I see people all around our county trying new things, starting businesses, supporting their community, taking risks, at times contentious - but at the heart of behaviors that grows the economy and makes Maine a wicked good place to live.

Jim Cyr's picture

Poverty rate increases?

With all the people in Augusta encouraging people to ride the wagon instead of pulling the wagon, it's no wonder. Augusta does not get the " we have a spending problem " mantra !

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Benjamin Franklin once said

Benjamin Franklin once said that the best way to lift a person from poverty is to make the person uncomfortable in that poverty. As long as government continues to cause people to be comfortable in poverty, poverty will continue to increase.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

At the risk of repeating myself.......

I haven't "bitched and moaned" about this in a while now, so I'll go again.
When I hear a statement like being "encouraged to ride the wagon", my blood boils. If Mr. Cyr, would like to attack a particular group of people, that's fine. Making such a broad assumption that everyone not able to work is draining HIS wallet, is very hurtful to a lot of people who don't have a choice. I am riding that wagon, I was not encouraged to ride it, I was forced to ride it. Please explain to me one thing. Who exactly encouraged me to give up a very nice income, just to enjoy life on twenty thousand a year? This happened over a period of one and a half years. By the way, I pay a lot of money every month for the people to pull this wagon. Medicare is not free, My monthly health coverage cost more now than when I was working.
There are a lot of people who, by no fault of their own, are unemployed, or unable to work like me. Trust me it ain't a piece of cake, it's probably as much a full time job, just for a lot of these folks to keep their heads above water. I know a lot of unemployed people, as well as disabled people. These people all contribute as best they can, I guess that according to one misguided individual, I'm in that 47%, of people who feel entitled. Who don't take responsibility for the lives. I'm here to tell you, just because a person can't work, for whatever reason. They are not free loaders. They are probably working harder than some people. As for that wagon ride, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the foliage. I've earned the right.........

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Every word you say is true,

Every word you say is true, Frank. But that does not alter the fact that all of it is being paid for on the backs of working taxpayers, with a lot of the funding, through government mishandling, being directed to the wrong places. I believe that might have been Mr. Cyr's point.

RONALD RIML's picture

"all the people in Augusta"

Are run by Republican controlled House, Senate, and Governor........

So talk to your buddies.....

Jim Cyr's picture

Mr. Rimi, It took

more then the past 2 years of " our buddies " to get us in this fiscal mess we find ourselves in. I suppose the past 30 years of " Progressivism " didn't get these wheels in motion, just the recent "Republicans ". We say it's all those "Repubcrats " that get elected and re-elected. They all need to drop the " Kool-Aid & Drink Tea ".

Steve  Dosh's picture

Ron , ppl who use

Ron ,
ppl who use platitudes. .like " all " " every one " " always " " never , " etc .
n e one in here a c t u a l l y live in Disgusta ?
Alo'ha from Pahoa hi 96778 u s a
\/ote on Nov. 6th or they win /s Steve


PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Why, I've NEVER heard of such

Why, I've NEVER heard of such a thing. You're ALWAYS saying stuff like that. 0O:-)


Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...