Figures released Thursday in the U.S. Census American Community Survey painted an inconclusive picture of Mainers’ economic well-being.
While the data showed that the poverty rate in Maine declined slightly from 2012 to 2013, earnings dropped as well. Furthermore, the decrease in poverty and the dip in earnings were both within the survey’s margin of error, and therefore statistically insignificant.
The data suggests the number of single Mainers below the poverty level – those making up to $11,490 a year, or four-person households earning up to $23,550 a year – decreased by more than 9,000 people, from 14.7 percent of the population to 14 percent.
The survey also showed a dip in Mainers’ median income, from $47,330 in 2012 to $46,974 in 2013, a difference also well within the survey’s margin of error.
In addition, the annual poverty survey covered only six of the state’s 16 counties, complicating comparisons among geographic locations.
Overall, the survey reached 29,174 Maine households, about 5 percent of the state total.
The survey does shed light on the state’s economic standing in the region and nationally.
Maine’s median income was the lowest among New England states and 17th lowest among all states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. It was also the lowest in the 11-state Northeast region.
The survey showed some bright spots. From 2012 to 2013, Rhode Island switched spots with Maine for having the highest percentage of its population living in poverty among New England states.
In addition, poverty among children under 18 in Maine dropped from 20.4 percent in 2012 to 17 percent in 2013.
Maine’s poverty rate tied Kansas for 19th lowest in the country.
New Hampshire’s 8.7 percent poverty rate was the lowest in the country. New Hampshire also had the second-best rate of improvement from 2012. Wyoming had the best poverty rate turnaround.
The left-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy characterized the results as Maine lagging behind the country more than five years after the end of the Great Recession.
“Maine’s poverty rate remains higher than it was even in the depths of the recession, and incomes for Maine’s working families are down and going nowhere,” Maine Center for Economic Policy economist Joel Johnson said in a news release. “Real income for Maine’s median household is lower than it was at the bottom of the Great Recession and showing no signs of growth. Income inequality continues to grow, as paychecks for wage earners are no bigger than they were a decade ago.”