Maine’s Demographic Winter by County

Maine County Map Showing Net Natural Population Change for 2012

As I blogged recently, Maine is now one of only two states in 2012 with a negative net natural population growth rate meaning there are more deaths in the state than births (West Virginia is the other state).

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released their 2012 data by county. I have created the chart above to show the counties in Maine based on their net natural population growth. As you can see, the overwhelming majority of counties have more deaths than births including: Hancock (-153), Aroostook (-151), Lincoln (-119), Oxford (-119), Washington (-118), Piscataquis (-65), Franklin (-47), Knox (-42), Kennebec (-35), and Waldo (-6).

Three counties just missed going negative: Somerset (5), Sagadahoc (29), and Penobscot (40).

Only three counties have a somewhat comfortable positive net natural population growth: York (113), Cumberland (249), and Androscoggin (316).

When factoring in net-migration to get total population change, the vast majority (10) of counties also lost population–although not necessarily the same counties with net natural population decline: Aroostook (-520), Oxford (-290), Washington (-225), Penobscot (-184), Franklin (-110), Piscataquis (-79), Lincoln (-74), Kennebec (-59), Knox (-59), and Somerset (-14).

Overall, Maine’s population grew by an anemic 648 people in 2012, which represents a growth rate of 0.049 percent—the 5th slowest rate in the country. As net natural population growth moves further into negative territory, it will eventually reach a point where even net in-migration will not be able to compensate. At that point, Demographic Winter will be very difficult to reverse.

Maine’s Demographic Winter (pdf) will have severe economic consequences. In economic terms, this means fewer workers will be available to businesses, and there will be fewer customers to buy their goods and services.  This dynamic creates the conditions of an economic depression in which business revenue falls year after year simply because there are fewer and fewer customers.

Eventually, businesses close and lay off their employees, which further compounds the problem and creates a vicious downward economic spiral.