Why Did Maine’s Population Shrink?


As shown in my previous blog, Maine’s population shrank for the first time in decades.  But what is the cause of this decline?

The first chart shows Maine’s “net domestic migration” which is the net flow of folks to and from other states (click “continue reading” to view chart).  The chart shows that Maine has entered another period of net out-migration with 2,937 more people leaving than coming into the state.  The previous out-migration episode was in the early 1990s.

However, note that out-migration in the early 1990s was higher than it is today.  Why didn’t total population shrink back then as well?

The answer lies in the rapid drop in the “net natural increase” which is the net change in births minus deaths as shown in the next chart.  In 1991, there were 5,873 more births than deaths.  By 2009, the natural increase had plunged to only 789.  The main cause of this decline was in births which fell from from 17,070 in 1991 to 13,683 in 2009.

As a result of lower natural increases, it takes smaller levels of net out-migration to cause drops in total population.  I warned about this problem when I blogged about the 2008 loss in population for 10 of Maine’s counties–it is called demographic winter.  Now demographic winter has spread to the entire state.

While this is bad news, hopefully this will propel policy-makers to start taking demographic winter seriously.  There are no easy solutions to this problem–just ask Japan, eastern europe and Russia all of whom face more severe cases of demographic winter and have yet to defeat it.