AUGUSTA, Maine — The population of Maine grew by 4.2 percent — to 1,328,361 — during the past decade, outpacing most Northeastern states but falling well behind the national growth rate, according to the first batch of data released Tuesday from the 2010 U.S. Census.
Maine gained 53,438 residents between 2000 and 2010. The Pine Tree State’s growth rate is higher than the 3.8 percent reported between 1990 and 2000 but is much lower than the 9.2 percent and 13.4 percent growth rates reported, respectively, in the decennial census reports from 1990 and 1980.
Among New England states, New Hampshire boasted the largest population gain, 6.5 percent, while Rhode Island grew less than 0.5 percent. The growth rate for Northeastern states, meanwhile, was 3.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Put into a national context, however, the rate of population gain in both New England and the rest of the Northeast is anemic compared to the Southern and Western U.S. That trend will have political ramifications as smaller and slower-growing states lose seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to the Census Bureau, the population of the United States on April 1 was 308,745,538 — up 9.7 percent from a decade ago, when there were roughly 281.4 million U.S. residents.
Maine will keep its two U.S. House seats for the next decade after reapportionment, which is when the nation’s 435 House seats are redivided in order to make sure each district has similar numbers of residents.
Massachusetts will lose one of that state’s 10 House seats, setting the stage for a potentially contentious redistricting debate. Nationwide, 10 states will lose seats while eight will gain representatives in the House.
On average, each House member across the country represents roughly 711,000 residents. Each of Maine’s two House members — Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud — represent more than 666,500 residents.
But Thomas Merrill, who crunches census data as part of the Maine State Planning Office’s economics and demographics team, pointed out that other states with more than one House member have even smaller numbers of residents in their districts. In Rhode Island, for instance, each of that state’s two House members represents roughly 527,600 residents.
The first batch of data from the 2010 national survey focused solely on statewide population trends for purposes of beginning the reapportionment of House seats. Early next year, the Census Bureau is expected to begin releasing more specific data on race and population at the local level.
Nonetheless, Tuesday’s data help illustrate how Maine compares to its neighboring states. For instance, New Hampshire appears on track to soon surpass Maine in total population for the first time since before Maine was an official state.
The two states’ populations differ only by about 12,000 residents, according to the 2010 census. In 2000, the gap was closer to 40,000 residents and in 1990 Maine had 119,000 more residents than New Hampshire.
Kenneth Johnson, a professor of sociology and senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute, said New Hampshire has significantly more births than deaths when compared to Maine.
Part of that is likely due to the fact that a larger number of younger families are moving into New Hampshire, as well as the fact that more Maine young people are leaving the state for jobs elsewhere.
“Maine’s birth-to-death rate is the thing that sets the two states apart,” Johnson said.
Yet Maine’s overall population grew by 4.2 percent, despite all of the talk about young people leaving the state in droves. Merrill with the Maine State Planning Office said he and other demographers are awaiting more detailed information from the Census Bureau to find out more about these new Mainers.
“It is certainly something we will be looking into once the detailed age cohort information comes out,” Merrill said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Thomas Merrill’s name.