Maine's changing population: A summary of structural changes, mobility, and regional variations

April 1, 2004

Report for REALIZE!Maine:

Young adults are the most mobile segment of the population. Where they live is influenced not only by where they have ties to family and friends, but also by their career choices, their choice of college to attend, their desire to experience different lifestyles, and their sense of adventure and desire to explore that which lies beyond their door. Concern that Maine is losing its youngest citizens has become widespread. Indeed, Maine’s population growth has lagged behind the nation since the early 1990s. There are fewer young adults today age 20-34, and the proportion of children and young adults as a percent of Maine’s population is declining.

The fact that young adults make up a smaller portion of the population today than in the past is of great significance. The cause is due less to massive out-migration than to normal aging of the population. The miracles of modern medicine and better diets and nutrition have led to longer life expectancy, thus increasing the portion of elders in our society. The largest age group in the population, both in Maine and nationally, is the “baby boom” generation, which is now largely in their late 40s and 50s. With declining birth rates, the generations that followed were smaller.

This trend will continue for some time to come. The proportion of elders in the Maine population will continue to grow as the baby boomers become seniors. At the same time, it is today’s smaller population of children who will become tomorrow’s young adults. Given these trends, the population of young adults in Maine is not expected to increase in the near future.

When these changes in natural increase are combined with other factors that influence migration of young adults, such as military base closings and students leaving Maine to pursue college degrees, the result is a net loss of young adults, though it is small compared to most states.

This does not mean that Maine should not be concerned. The growth and well-being of the population and the strength and vitality of the economy are complexly entwined. A growing population of young and well-educated individuals fuels economic growth and in turn increases economic opportunity and quality of life for all Maine residents.

Trends also indicate that there is a growing regional disparity. Youth tend to be more concentrated in the urban counties and in areas where institutions of higher education are located. The data show that these same areas have a higher level of social and economic diversification and offer greater employment opportunities with higher incomes.

The purpose of this paper is to present data to show how Maine’s population is changing, the factors that contribute to the trends, and to compare Maine’s situation to the national trends. It also examines the mobility of the population both within the state and between states.

Report for REALIZE!Maine: Young adults are the most mobile segment of the population. Where they live is influenced not only by where they have ties to family and friends, but also by their career choices, their choice of college to attend, their desire to experience different lifestyles, and their sense of adventure and desire to explore that which lies beyond their door. Concern that Maine is losing its youngest citizens has become widespread. Indeed, Maine’s population growth has lagged behind the nation since the early 1990s. There are fewer young adults today age 20-34, and the proportion of children and young adults as a percent of Maine’s population is declining.

Supporting documents

Maine's Changing Population: A Summary of Structural Changes, Mobility and Regional Variations (PDF)