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Economic Brief: Maine’s Inverting Age Pyramid

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by J. Scott Moody

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released new data showing state and county population by major age groups as of July 1, 2011. This new data shows another slice of “Demographic Winter” in Maine by looking at the overall age pyramid of the state. A healthy age pyramid, as the name suggests, is one where young folks form the large base and the oldest folks form the narrow top.

Composition of Maine's Population by Age Group

However, Maine already has a majority of counties where there are more deaths than births. As a consequence, we would expect the percentage of folks under the age of 18 to become a smaller share of the population and those folks over the age of 65 to become a larger share. This new data confirms this.

As shown in the table above, as of July 1, 2011, 20.3 percent of Maine’s population is made up of folks under the age of 18 (the 49th largest in the country) while 16.3 percent is made up of folks over the age of 65 (the 2nd largest in the country). While no state, yet, has an inverted age pyramid, Florida (21 percent and 17.6 percent, respectively) comes the closest with Maine trailing close behind.

However, the data shows that five of Maine’s counties already have an inverted age pyramid–Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Piscataquis, and Washington. Additionally, Aroostook, County just missed having an inverted age pyramid by only 0.2 percentage point.

  • In Hancock County, 17.9 percent of the population was under the age of 18 while 18.9 percent of the population was over the age of 65–leaving a deficit of 1 percentage points.
  • In Knox County, 19 percent of the population was under the age of 18 while 19.7 percent of the population was over the age of 65–leaving a deficit of 0.7 percentage points.
  • In Lincoln County, 18.2 percent of the population was under the age of 18 while 22.3 percent of the population was over the age of 65–leaving a deficit of 4.1 percentage points (the worst in the state).
  • In Piscataquis County, 18.8 percent of the population was under the age of 18 while 21.1 percent of the population was over the age of 65–leaving a deficit of 2.3 percentage points.
  • In Washington County, 19.6 percent of the population was under the age of 18 while 19.9 percent of the population was over the age of 65–leaving a deficit of 0.3 percentage points.

While there is no silver bullet to fixing Maine’s Demographic Winter which has been decades in the making, the state must certainly break the “business as usual” mentality that continues to grow the public sector at the expense of the private sector.  Previous MHPC research has shown that right-sizing the state government workforce and the Medicaid system would save hundreds of millions of hard-earned taxpayer’s dollars.

These savings should be put to work in Maine’s economy via reductions in the personal income tax leading to its eventual outright elimination. This kind of bold leadership will tell the rest of the country that Maine is truly “Open for Business.” This would attract new businesses and families to the state that are necessary to reversing Demographic Winter.

J. Scott Moody is the Chief Executive Officer at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the parent organization of The Maine Wire. He can be reach at jsmoody@mainepolicy.org.

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently producer for the Howie Carr Show. Follow him on Twitter @Stevie_Rob or send him an email at Steve@HowieCarrShow.com.

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