Franklin, Oxford counties have state's lowest per capita income

PORTLAND — When it comes to income, Maine residents are more reliant on government payments and derive a smaller percentage from earnings than the rest of the country.

That’s one of the main takeaways from the Maine Development Foundation’s quarterly economic report released on Thursday. While MDF’s annual Measures of Growth report tracks Maine’s per capita personal income and compares it to the rest of the country, the quarterly reports allow for a deeper dive into the data, according to Ryan Neale, MDF’s program director and author of the report on personal income.

“One of the areas we’ve touched on but never had the opportunity in the context of the Measures of Growth report to explore is the makeup of Maine’s per capita personal income, how that compares and the discrepancies within geographic areas of Maine,” Neale told the Bangor Daily News on Thursday.

Maine’s per capita personal income was $38,299 in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. That figure placed Maine 29th among the states, and was lower than the national average of $41,561, according to the report, which was completed in collaboration with the University of Maine’s School of Economics.

The Maine counties with the highest per capita income in 2011 were Cumberland ($47,015) and Lincoln ($40,534), while the counties with the lowest per capita income were Franklin ($30,757) and Oxford ($30,999).

Interestingly, the counties with the highest poverty rates — Piscataquis at 19.5 percent and Washington at 21.7 percent — did not have the lowest per capita personal incomes. Piscataquis and Washington counties had per capita personal incomes that year of $32,189 and $32,738, respectively.

To understand why, Neale looked at what makes up personal income. Personal income consists of three sources: earned income, which comes from wages; investment income, which come from dividends and interest; and transfer payments, which are government benefits, including Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid payments to health care providers.

Transfer payments made up the largest share of Piscataquis and Washington counties’ per capita personal income, at 33 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

While the findings themselves aren’t groundbreaking, they provide valuable context for the policy discussions lawmakers will have in the next legislative session, which begins in January, Neale said.

“The general commentary is that we’re more reliant on transfer payments than the rest of the country and we derive a smaller percentage from earnings,” Neale said. “To drive our economy, we’d like to see earnings and investment income — those two pieces of the equation — come up.”

The three sources of income “are not all created equal in what they mean for economic impact and what they mean for economic growth,” Neale said.

As a state, transfer payments made up 23 percent of the total per capita personal income, which is higher than the national average of 18 percent, according to the report.

In the report, Neale blames Maine’s outmigration of younger workers, and its increasing proportion of elderly and lower-income residents, as the reasons behind this statistic.

Interestingly, Hancock, Knox and Lincoln counties had the highest proportion of income coming from investments in the state — 24 percent, 23 percent and 25 percent, respectively. That compares to a state average of 15 percent and a national average of 16 percent.

Those numbers are a result of “well-to-do” retirees in those counties who rely on their pensions and investments for their income, Neale said.

“However, relying on developing Maine primarily as a destination for well-off retirees has its drawbacks,” the report says. “Economic development that attracts younger wage earners needs to continue to be a high priority if the state’s per capita personal income amounts and patterns are to come close to national averages.”

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MARK GRAVEL's picture

"..transfer payments made up

"..transfer payments made up 23 percent of the total per capita personal income, .." in Maine.

Wow, that explains a lot of attitudes I run across when I push for reduced government spending.

Kim Waite's picture

Let me guess...

...you're one of THOSE who believes that those who are receiving transfer payments are laying around the house in their Prada shoes and high end clothes and eating the best food money can buy, right?

Lots of elderly people make up that number. Oh wait! People like you think they're lazy and should be working for a wage at the age of 90.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

That is your projection of

That is your projection of what I think, I never said such a thing. In know it makes you feel better though to make these false claims. That is human nature - people don't like hearing the truth and get defensive when they do.

I look at the bigger picture. A picture that paints government overspending and borrowing $0.40 on the dollar as the biggest threat to national security.

Americans, it appears many of those Americans living in Maine, are far too dependent on a government that really cannot pay its bills. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid comprise of about 50% of government spending in America. This needs to change, and it will change by will or necessity.

Moreover, if we look at what American's consider poverty, it looks like a pretty good living compared to world standards.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

As usual, again you leave out the total truth

"Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid comprise of about 50% of government spending in America"

According to Heritage, your LORD and Savior..... BTW it is 44%....

Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—dominate in size and growth, soaking up about 44 percent of the budget.

You seem to advertently always leave out those others of the mostly abused and unnecessary debt to Americans.

Allows the wealthy (annual adjusted gross income up to $950,000) to collect agriculture subsidies. So much for “family farmers.”

DEFENSE!!!!!!!Corporate entitlements!!!!!!!!....they too are pieces of the pie, but just like Heritage you attack the others and not the whole....

Kim Waite's picture

I don't know about you Jerry...

...but I would rather subsidize our farmers rather than the oil industry! :D

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Kim not all goes to small farmers, that is the sad part

The larger portions up to the $950,00.00 goes to the large corporations farmers. But I do agree that the small Co-ops farmers like we have here in MN and elsewhere in the country do and need it to subsidize for bad years or land control. The problem is like Mark pointed out that the hand out is those that probably don't need it, but want it. That is why you find in the House of Reps and Senate both that quite a few are farmers or have clients and family. Those politicians are they to insure to line their purse and hold stead fast it stays that way to better themselves and not the tax payers. Look at Colburn, Bachmann, Tim Huelskamp and many others that receive those monies and some sit on those committees also.

There needs to be a balance an a better set of financial monetary standards and quantitative approaches for those that are in need.

The oil companies use is for political dollars, which is maddening and so rightfully disgraceful that civil servants use it for their own personal political contributions gain and defy the oath they took.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Nope, cut it all! If the

Nope, cut it all! If the farmer cannot build an economic buffer for his activity, let him go out of business.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Good Luck

Disseminating that in the lower Red states in front of a bunch of farmers and see if you leave the barn alive...

MARK GRAVEL's picture

You hit of the crux of the

You hit of the crux of the problem. Many people what to cut government spending, but not my programs.

The easiest way to cut is across to board. Every department gets a 10% cut every year for the next 4 years. Don't make it personal.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The problem is that a

The problem is that a majority of the farm subsidies go to business like ADM and Monsanto. These are not mom and pop farmers.

I contemplated starting alpaca farming, so I can subside my property tax. The government is throwing cash hand over fist. That crap needs to be cleanup up prior to uttering the words "tax increase."

Kim Waite's picture

That is true. Good point.

But! Subsidizing the oil companies for decades on end has been an outrage!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The discussion is about

The discussion is about transfer payments; hence, I focus on data related to transfer payments. I'm for eliminating farm subsidies, but that is not one of the key drivers of the budget.

Kim Waite's picture

An employee at a local business in Norway...

...told me recently that the reason she was working the night shift is because the business can't seem to find any young people to work it. I asked why and she said the young people in the area are applying and interviewing for the job, but none of them can pass the urine/drug test. Ugh. Sad, very sad.

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