Census: In 2010, 161,000 (12.5%) of Mainers Live in Poverty

U.S. poverty rate reaches 17-year high; median income in Maine increases slightly
Augusta, Maine (Tuesday, September 13, 2011)- New figures released today from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey show that Maine’s poverty rate in 2010 was 12.5%, up from 11.4% in 2009.  In 2010, 161,000 Mainers lived in poverty, an increase of 13,000 over 2009. Maine’s real median household income in 2010 was $48,133, a 1.3% and $631 increase from the 2009 level and below the rate of inflation of 1.6% in 2010.  While these figures suggest an increasing number of Mainers are experiencing greater economic insecurity as a result of the recession, it is important to note that the difference between the 2010 and 2009 figures is not statistically significant.  

Among the New England states, only Rhode Island had a higher poverty rate than Maine and Maine ranked last in median household income. Nationally, the poverty rate increased to 15.1%, the highest level since 1993, and real median household incomes declined by 2.3% to $49,400, 7% less than the peak of $53,252 in 1999. 

“With unemployment at 9.6% nationally and 7.7% in Maine, it is not surprising that more people have fallen below the poverty level and that family incomes are hardly growing,” said Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) Executive Director Christopher St. John.  “As funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has dried up, it is all the more important that Congress act quickly to pass President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act to put people in Maine and across America back to work.” 

The rate of children in Maine under the age of 18 living in poverty is 18.7 percent, up from 17.1 percent in 2009. Nationally, 22 percent of children live in poverty. 

“Poverty affects children profoundly, from their health to their performance in school to their success in adulthood,” said Maine Children’s Alliance (MCA) President/CEO Dean Crocker. “With poverty numbers on the rise, we must invest in effective solutions that equip children and their families with the tools needed to move out of poverty.” 

Using two-year average figures to evaluate the trend over time, Maine’s poverty rate eased in 2009 and resumed an upward trend in 2010, without any significant fluctuation over the last three years. Also, using two-year average estimates and 2010 CPI adjusted dollars, Maine’s average median household income of 2009-10 was $48,210, still below the pre-recession high of $48,860 in the 2006-07 period. 

Nationally, the number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 49.0 million in 2009 to 49.9 million in 2010, while the percentage without coverage −16.3 percent – was not statistically different from the rate in 2009. In Maine, the 3-year average data show Maine’s uninsured rate at 9.9% in 2010, or 129,000 people, without any statistically significant change during the last three years. Maine ranked 6th nationally and 3rd in New England, behind MA and VT.  

“This new census data reinforces the critical role that Medicaid plays in providing health insurance coverage to children and families,” said Ana Hicks, Senior Policy Analyst, Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP).  “The data also demonstrates that Medicaid is essential to keep Maine’s rate of uninsured steady and below the national average.” 

The data results from this survey are preliminary. It is the only data available on state poverty and health insurance trends through 2010. On Thursday, September 22, the Census Bureau will release more definitive 2010 data as part of the American Community Survey, which is a larger review. On September 22, MECEP, MCA, MEJP and representatives from other public interest groups will hold a briefing and media availability to answer questions about the results from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to be released that day.  The availability will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Welcome Center of the State House in Augusta.