Researchers can’t foretell the future completely, but they can project realistic population scenarios based on historical trends. That’s what the Urban Institute has done with its “Mapping Americas Futures” project.
For decades, Maine’s birth rate has been declining, and the death rate has been increasing. Recently, the two lines on the graph overlapped. There are now slightly more deaths than births.
So it makes sense that the Urban Institute’s population mapping tool projects more of the same for Maine. If birth, death and migration rates — all drivers of population change — remain average between 2010 and 2030, it shows that Maine’s population, as it continues to age, will decline 0.21 percent. (It projects the population over age 65 will increase 78 percent.) Here’s a graphic showing that trend: Meanwhile, the areas around Presque Isle and Calais would see a population decline of more than 11 percent, as more people leave for southern sections or die.
But what if all things don’t stay the same? What if Maine attracts more people to the state who, in turn, start families and have more children? Even with a realistically higher birth rate, higher migration rate and lower death rate, the regions around Presque Isle and Calais would still see a decline in population between 2010 and 2030. The Urban Institute estimates it would be around 5 percent.
But the Bangor and Portland areas could see a great benefit. Each region — which is broken up by commuting zone — could see as much as 13-percent growth with a lower death rate and higher rates of birth and migration.
What about the worst-case scenario — a lower birth rate, lower migration rate and higher death rate than average? If that were to happen, the Bangor and Portland areas could see as much as 10-percent declines in population by 2030. And Presque Isle and Calais could see as much as 18-percent population declines in that time.
Demographics can be destiny if states let them be destiny. But federal, state and local policies lend some control over the outcome. It’s highly unlikely that regions in Maine will see the 40- or 70-percent population increases that regions in other states may see. But continued population decline isn’t inevitable.
Explore the projections for Maine by clicking here.