Maine: An Encyclopedia


Tenement Housing Usually Serves Low-Income People (2002)

Tenement Housing Usually Serves Low-Income People (2002)

Official Poverty Levels by Family Size

Size Income
1 $10,210
2 $13,690
3 $17,170
4 $20,650
5 $24,130
6 $27,610
7 $31,090
8 $34,570

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For each additional family member, add $3,480. Standards for 2007 issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The more general term “low income” is commonly defined as 200% of the poverty standard. Thus a family of four in 2007 with an income of about $41,000 would be a low income family.

The following is a “Summary of Highlights and Trends” from the year 2008 Report Card on Poverty in the Maine economy, produced by law by the State Planning Office.

Percent in Poverty: 1982-2007

Percent in Poverty: 1982-2007

Maine’s overall poverty rate declined since a high point of 14.3 percent in 1993 until the recession of 2001. The strong economy created a demand for workers in the labor force that led to a low unemployment rate. However the rate rose steadily again through 2004 before easing during the next three years. The recessions of the early 1980’s, early 1990’s and 2002 pushed Maine’s poverty rates up as demand for labor declined.

On the surface, more work and more income looks good for those at the lower end of the income spectrum in Maine. Yet poverty remains a stubborn and persistent fact in Maine. Those with the least appear to be helped little by what appears to be a healthy economy.

Consider the following from a 2008 report by the Maine State Planning Office:

During the past 25 years, the poverty rate has never fallen below 10 percent.

Even in 2001 when the lowest rate (10.2%) was recorded, 135,000 Mainer’s were living in poverty. In 2007 that number stood at 142,000.

In 2007, nearly 17 percent of Mane people were “food insecure,” meaning not having “enough food for an active, healthy life,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Food insecurity can also reinforce the detrimental effects of poverty. Inadequate nutrition limits one’s ability to focus on work and learning.

Almost 37 percent of Maine children qualify for free or reduced price school lunches, based on family income.

Median income in Maine rose slightly for the three-year average of 2003-2005, even adjusting for inflation. This constituted the second consecutive gain in real median income since 1998-2000. Average earnings per job, however, did not keep pace with inflation, and actually lost buying power for the second year since 2004.

Using the Census Bureau’s preferred two-year averages, Maine’s official poverty rate was 11.4% in 2005-2006. That is statistically unchanged from the previous year.

There is great disparity in poverty levels across Maine’s regions. In easternmost Washington County, poverty is almost twice as prevalent as in southern Cumberland, York, and Sagadahoc counties.

For the 2004 tax year, Maine saw no change in Earned Income Tax Credit filings at the federal level. Counties with higher poverty rates also saw higher rates of EITC filings.

Food insecurity rates in Maine for the 2003-2005 period were higher than for the preceding 3-year average. Maine’s food insecurity rate of 12.3% represented a statistically significant change from 9.0% in 2000-2002.

Both the Food Stamp Program and the National School Lunch Program saw slight increases in use for the third year since 2004. However, this may be due to increased awareness of the program.

As Maine evolves from a manufacturing–based economy to one more involved in services and information, there continue to be regional disparities in job growth and average earnings. Maine also has higher rates of people holding multiple jobs than in the nation as a whole.

Maine’s minimum wage has held pace with inflation since the 1980s, but has not regained the real value it had in the 1970s. However, Maine’s minimum wage increased in October 2006 and October 2007.

Maine continues to lag behind the nation in the number of residents with post-secondary education. This has important implications for the earning power of Maine’s citizens.

The cost of housing continues to outpace increases in median income. Over the last six years, the median home price in Maine rose more than four times as much as median income; median rent rose more than twice as much.

The cost of heating oil and gasoline rose sharply in 2007. This corresponded to increased use of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Through 2005, increases in healthcare costs have outpaced income growth. Overall, Mainers saw modest increases in wages and income in 2007, but the cost of housing, fuel, and medical care continue to rise. Recent large increases in costs have caused some Maine families to struggle. Healthcare services vary significantly by county.

Additional resources

See also Rank of Maine, Social Indicators

State of Maine, State Planning Office. 2008 Report on Poverty. February 2008.

Maine’s Rank Nationally on Poverty Indicators

Maine’s Rank in ==> 1990 1998-1999 2007 Scale
1. Population Characteristics:
Percent Elderly 18th 10th 23th 1=highest
Percent Children 35th 49th 31st 1=highest
2. Economic Characteristics:
% in Labor Force Workers/100 population 24th 30th 17th 1=highest
Percent Home Owner 1st 6th 10th (2004) 1=highest
3. Income Characteristics:
Poverty Rate 25th 31st 28th 1=highest
Annual Pay of Workers 39th 40th 30th 1=highest
Median Household Income 32nd 33rd 36th 1=highest
Gap between richest & poorest 44th 42nd (2006) 1=widest
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Rankings of States, US Statistical Abstract & Center for Budget & Policy Priorities.

U.S. Census. “American Factfinder.” 2007 data.

U.S. Census. “Income, Earnings, and Poverty Data From the 2006 American Community Survey.”

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This entry was last modified: March 07, 2012 04:37 PM

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