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.

1 COMMENT

  1. Reducing the negative impact of personal income taxes upon individuals is a worthy idea; however, as an immediate goal, it’s shortsighted.

    Maine has very serious problems both in terms of  the well-being of her citizenry in general and her infrastructure – most notably transportation.

    The application of savings from prudent reductions in the size and scope of government would better be invested back into the economy through programs that target those revenues to specific goals that directly and immediately provide jobs and improve the deteriorating condition of necessary programs and infrastructure.

    Failing this, we simply shift the economic burdens of problems that must be addressed from from the state to local governments who are ill equipped to carry them and defer solutions to the future when the inevitable costs will be greater.

    There is simply no evidence that eliminating revenue dollars (in the form forgoing taxes) has any positive impact upon solving specific societal problems.

  2.  So, people getting to keep more of their own money won’t result in more economic growth?  You don’t think that if John Q. Public had more money he wouldn’t spend it on that new car he’s been putting off buying?

    The state will get more money from the gas that he buys and registration fees.  This is the money that goes to infrastructure, as opposed to another government, “program” that spends more money, and accomplishes very little. 

  3. Retirees moving into Maine should be studied more carefully in regard to their economic impact—health care costs vs. their spending patterns and job growth in health service, etc. areas; and in designing sustainable ‘villages’ that provide them the economic and other security they require.

    Most have sheltered income in their portfolio’s and retirement accounts; but their spending patterns and their impact on the regions they tend to cluster seems to be a mystery to all the economic pundits I’m aware of…although Laurie LaChance has done some analysis.

    There is a socialist leitmotif which seeks to limit retiree spending and then confiscate as much of their estate when they die….i.e. the State ‘inherits’ their wealth instead of family, organizations, etc.

    I would focus on this end-of-life scenario and make Maine as retiree friendly as possible by encouraging spending and its multiple economic benefits, instead of pouring the money into he general revenue fund.

    At the other end of the spectrum are the various ethnic and immigrant groups being recruited to provide at home health care and domestic services. What better recruiting image for retiring in Maine is a couple surrounded by their ‘helpers’…gardeners, house cleaners, physical therapists, etc. 

  4. Individuals spend extra money on things that suit their fancy. The public benefit, if any, is indirect.

    Governments spend public money on things that the public (through their elected representatives) have determined will provide an immediate and direct public benefit. Most importantly: private sector work. You know, jobs.

    The single most effective way to create private sector jobs is not through tax breaks (unrestricted government gifts of public money to private concerns), but through targeted and carefully monitored public works projects.

  5. “(H)e gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone—he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.”
    -F. Scott Fitzgerald


  6. BRUNSWICK — Peter F. Schwindt, 72, of Brunswick, died on June 27, 2012, doing what he loved most — sailing his boat atop the rolling waves, feeling the salt spray, and watching the sunset over Rockland harbor. He was there preparing for his annual cruise with his wife on Penobscot Bay.
    Peter was born on Jan. 27, 1940, in Rockland Centre, N.Y., to Benjamin Schwindt and Mari (Hessner) Schwindt. Peter attended the Kent School, studied philosophy at Yale and Heidelberg Universities, and graduated from Yale Law School. He practiced law in Manhattan as an assistant district attorney, and promoted court reforms around the country as Deputy Director of the Institute for Judicial Administration. In 1978, Peter moved to Maine. He served first as legislative staff to the taxation committee, then as Deputy Attorney General for James Tierney.
    In October 1983, Peter married Trish Riley, his loving partner for 29 years….”

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