Maine’s Economy is getting much better for Singles, but not for Single Parents

Cost of living / Income Trends in Maine

Click on the graphics to zoom in.

Income Growth in Real Dollars
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Center for Workforce Research and Information, and from the Maine Center for Economic Policy were gathered and complied into Figure 1 and Figure 2 above. These statistics show the growth trends in per-capita income in Maine both statewide and by county. Alongside the nominal growth numbers, we show the change in the livable wage in each county for varying households from 1999 when the Maine Center for Economic Policy was first charged with calculating the Living Wage to 2008.

What we see from the data is that for most household categories, income has risen more than the cost of living, inferring that the average Mainer has more disposable income today than in 1999. One notable exception is the single parent household. When we compare the change in living costs for single adults to those of single parents with two children, we can see that independent workers have enjoyed a steadily growing standard of living, but it has become increasingly difficult for a single wage earner to support a family in Maine. This is especially acute in places such as Hancock and Washington county, as well as the major metropolitan regions, where the cost of living for single parents has risen more than income, leaving that demographic poorer than in 1999.

The shrinking real income of single parents puts upward pressure on the demand for social services and government programs. When compared to the Nation and New England, Mainers receive a higher percentage of household income from government transfers (welfare, unemployment and disability) even though the 7.2% unemployment rate in Maine is lower than the National average.

Employment By Industry

Of the fifty largest private employers in Maine, only 26 employ more than 1,000 people statewide.  Of these, ten are healthcare and social service related, seven are manufacturers, six are retailers, three are finance/insurance firms, and the final three are a utility, a private school, and a research laboratory.

Implications for Maine’s Budget
Maine’s government faces the following problems as they contemplate the budget:
A) Rising demand for social services and government expenditure coupled with
B) Shrinking manufacturing and construction sectors, which leads to the need for retraining of Maine’s laborers for high-tech manufacturing and other skilled trade labor (health care, finance, etc.)

Both of these economic forces put pressure on policymakers to expand funding for social services and education, which directly opposes the current administration’s goals to cut costs.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Graham
    Apr 05, 2011 @ 17:29:25

    With all we hear in the news, I was quite surprised to learn things have actually gotten better for most Mainers. The stats and figures are much appreciated.


    • Finance Therapy
      Apr 05, 2011 @ 18:47:31

      The most recent stats from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics are for 2009, so we’re missing the last 2 years – critical during a recession, I know.

      The upshot is that from what I’ve read about Mainer’s income during the recession, we outpaced the national average in growth, so it’s still good news, really.

      Of course, I’m not discounting the struggles (especially of the working poor, and small business owners that I work with), but it’s good to see that the general trend is a higher standard of living.

      That said, I think that the future of Maine’s economy is exactly equal to the opportunities our KIDS are given now. If kids who only have one parent are living with less than they need, I see a great need for increased spending on health care and education, not decreases, as the current administration is bent on implementing.


  2. CHattin, single parent statistics
    Apr 06, 2011 @ 02:47:14

    Does this mean that the costs of daycare and child-related goods/services have gone up too? Would this explain why single parents have it harder?


    • Finance Therapy
      Apr 06, 2011 @ 22:48:42

      Possibly. When you look at the 2-parent, 2-income households, their cost of living has gone up, too, if not quite as drastically. They also have to pay for childcare while they are at work. It’s at least a contributing factor, I’m sure.


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