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New Census Figures Confirm Maine's Population Continues to Decline
09/24/2013   Reported By: Keith Shortall

Newly released census figures show that more people are moving out of Maine than are moving in. Massachusetts is experiencing a similar trend. But in New Hampshire, it's a different story.

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While the data only cover one year, and come with a healthy margin of error, one prominent researcher said there is at least one safe conclusion to be drawn from them.

"Well the new data suggest that domestic migration to Maine has been negative," said Ken Johnson, a senior demographer at the Carsey Institute and professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire. "That more people are moving out of Maine and going to other US states than are coming to Maine."

Johnson said the Census estimates the net loss for Maine at over 11,000 people. If that figure is accurate it would mark a significant increase over the previous few years. Maine also has a very low so-called "natural increase" that is little, if any, more births than deaths. Johnson said Maine's only source of population growth, and it was modest, is attributed to immigrants from outside the United states.

"The contrast between what's happening in Maine and New Hampshire underscores some of the differences that migration can make, New Hampshire had a net migration gain this year, it also had a natural increase, not a lot of it, but the number of births in New Hampshire are higher than the number of deaths, and it also has modest immigration," he said.
Johnson speculates that what's happening in New Hampshire is a reflection of how the easing of the recession nationally is fueling more migration into certain states that have historically been known to attract residents. The loosening up of the real estate estate market is also playing a role. Some of New Hampshire's family-aged population, Johnson said, is moving into the southern part of the state, where commuters to greater Boston can find more affordable housing. Johnson said both New Hampshire and Maine are also seeing a class of so-called "amenity migrants."

"And those tend to be more older migrants more affluent, may have vacationed in Maine, have a second home in Maine and may be attracted to Maine by that, so there are different streams of migrants influenced by different parts of the economy," he said.

But the out-migration trend in Maine is all about economics, said Charlie Colgan, professor of public policy at the University of Southern Maine.

"This is pretty typical, we lose people during recession, we continue to lose them during the recovery, because recovery takes so long and it won't be this year at the earliest that we start to get positive turnaround in job growth and migration," Colgan said.

He said he expects about a thousand more people will come back to Maine than leave in 2013, and that the positive trend will continue after that.

"In the coming years I don't expect more than a net of more than 2,000 to 2,500 people, still below trend because our economy is so weak, but we are getting to the point of a recovery cycle when we can expect to see people start moving back to Maine," said Colgan.

UNH's Ken Johnson said that nationally, the thawing of the recession contributed to more in-migration into states such as Florida, Arizona and Nevada, while Masschussetts, New York and New Jersey started seeing a decline.

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