Cumberland County communities with the highest percentages of college-educated residents also have the highest median household incomes, new Census Bureau data shows.

Cape Elizabeth leads the education list, with 62.7 percent of residents having at least a bachelor’s degree. Falmouth and Cumberland follow, with 61.8 and 60.4 percent, respectively.

Cumberland has the top median household income, with $84,063 a year. Falmouth is second, with $83,139; Cape Elizabeth is third, with $80,644.

By comparison, 26.1 percent of residents statewide have a college degree or more, while the statewide median household income is $46,541.

The statistics are among thousands in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2005-2009, released Tuesday. The survey offers the first look at town-level economic and demographic indicators since the 2000 census.

“Think of it as a snapshot,” said Tom Merrill, an economist with the Maine State Planning Office. “Instead of five years, think of it as a single unit in time.”

About four of every 10 Portland residents have at least a college degree, but the city’s median income is below the statewide average. A large share of young, lower-wage earners in the city, combined with the many service-sector jobs, may pull down the income figure, Merrill said.

A few towns in Cumberland County have percentages of college graduates below the statewide average. The lowest is Baldwin, with 15.5 percent. Others are Casco, Gray, Harrison, Naples, Sebago, Standish and Westbrook.

At the bottom of the income spectrum, 12 percent of Portland residents reported earnings below the poverty level in the past year, compared to 8.6 percent statewide. In Portland, 15.1 percent of residents qualified for food stamp benefits in the past year, compared to 12.7 percent statewide.

Beyond education and income, the survey provided some quirky and revealing insights about Portland and the state:

More than one in 10 Portland residents walk to work; less than 4 percent ride a bus.

More than one in 10 Portland residents are foreign-born. Four percent of Portland residents trace their ancestry to sub-Saharan Africa. comparison, just over 3 percent of residents statewide were born in another country.

Despite its outdoorsy image, Maine has become a workplace dominated by sales, service and office jobs. Only 1.6 percent of jobs statewide are in farming, fishing and forestry. A quarter of all occupations are sales and office jobs, which is on par with Portland’s statistics.

The survey represents a change in the way the Census Bureau collects information about income, education, occupation and similar details. Rather than relying on the 10-year census, the bureau is capturing the finer points with the American Community Survey, which asks questions of a small sample of households and is updated annually.

That’s why Tuesday’s data should be treated as a new statistical portrait, according to the State Planning Office, and not compared directly to the 2000 Census. The information was compiled from surveys at 3 million homes nationally. Over time, the five-year survey will make it easier to spot trends.

Later this month, the first part of the 2010 Census will be released, covering national and state population counts. Local-level population and demographic information will be available later this winter.

 

Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:

[email protected]