Child poverty fell in 2013, but median household income continues to go nowhere

Child poverty in Maine fell back to pre-recession levels in 2013, but income for the median household and the overall poverty rate saw no improvement, according to annual estimates released today by the US Census Bureau.

Maine has 548,000 households. Half of them have incomes above the median and half have incomes below. The Census Bureau estimates that income of the median household in Maine was $46,974 in 2013, statistically no different than 2012’s figure of $47,330 (adjusted for inflation).  Maine’s median household income is actually $2,300 below what it was in 2009, a statistically significant decline.

MHHINC-2013-ACS 9-18-2014

Median household income is one of the most important indicators of the economic health of everyday working Mainers and their children. That’s why it’s so disheartening to continue to see median household income well below where it was even a decade ago.

There was some good news in today’s data release: the share of Maine’s children—especially very young children—living poverty declined substantially between 2012 and 2013. Poverty among children under 18 fell to 17.0% in 2013 from 20.4% in 2012, while poverty among children under 5 fell to 20.4% from 26.9%. Both changes were statistically significant.

Poverty Rates 9-18-2014The increase in recent years in poverty among Maine children was alarming, so it’s good to see those statistics improve. But make no mistake, poverty among children remains an enormous problem. 1 in 5 young children in Maine live in poverty, according to the latest estimate. Kids who live in poverty are more likely to struggle in school and suffer from poor health and nutrition.

Overall, the decline in children living in poverty wasn’t enough to make a substantial change in the overall poverty rate for the state. It ticked down slightly, but the change wasn’t statistically significant. In other words, to the best of our knowledge Maine’s poverty rate was no different in 2013 than it was in 2012.