These three images show why aging Maine desperately needs diversity

Maine, the whitest state in the nation, is aging. We have to turn that around.

Maine needs younger people to maintain and improve our economy.

We’ve heard that for awhile. A new article by Scott Thistle notes another aspect of the situation — the shrinking number of 18-34 year olds in Maine.

Three images show that changing the age mix will require that Maine becomes more diverse.

First, check out the median age of Americans by race.

Hispanics and multiracial people are the youngest, with average ages of 27.3 and 19.9. Whites are the oldest.

divexplosion_medianageMaine’s median age is 42 years old, the same as the median age of whites in the U.S.

Second, if you divide Americans into different age groups, you can see that the oldest groups are the whitest. The youngest groups have the lowest percentages of whites. Only 58% of 18-35 year olds are white.

divexplosion_racialmakeupAmazingly, Maine is whiter than the oldest group in the chart, the people 85 and above. Nationally those elders are 85% white. In contrast, Maine as a whole is 95% white.

Third, in the U.S. the white population is growing slowly and is expected to decline, while other racial groups are growing. Note that these shifts are not in the percentages in the population but also the actual number of people.

divexplosion_minoritypopYou may note the above chart includes some arrows and the words “just in time” by the 20130 bars. William Frey, the author of the book that includes these charts, put those in because they show that, as the white population stops growing, other groups continue to do so.

Given these age patterns, it’s clear that for Maine is to lower its average age, it needs to attract nonwhites to the state.

That might include immigrants from other countries or people who were born in this country.

One group might be refugees who are being resettled in the country.

Bosnian refugees found a new home in Utica, NY. As an article from a few years ago noted, “Almost 40% of Utica’s population is over 50, but the refugees are young. They’re filling the schools and providing a needed workforce.”

For Maine, Former Attorney General Jim Tierney has talked about this for awhile and the issue is now even more urgent.

Any path we take will have challenges, both for the existing Maine population and the newcomers. It will take political and civic leadership to pursue this in a meaningful and productive way.

But if we don’t do it, Maine will be in big, big trouble.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.