From 2011 to 2015, Maine lost more than 1,800 workers younger than 26 and had a net loss of about 667 workers under the age of 65, according to IRS statistics.
For younger workers, leaving Maine means higher incomes
Last modified March 12, 2017, at 8:41 a.m.
BANGOR, Maine — Ethan Evans figured he would have to leave Maine for work before he got an offer he “couldn’t refuse.”
Evans works remotely from Bangor for Boston-based software development firm Appworks, supplementing his military career with the Maine National Guard and allowing him to buck a trend of the state losing its youngest workers in droves.
“I can go to Boston and get my fill of the city life, and then I can come home and sit in the woods,” said Evans, who noted a majority of his friends have left, mostly for Boston or Portland.
If it weren’t for the job offer from Appworks that lets him stay close to family, he said he’d probably be gone, too.
“It’s better for some people to go make double the money in Massachusetts and then come back later to settle here,” Evans said.
Evans’ story is an exception to the exodus of the state’s youngest workers. From 2011 to 2015, Maine lost more than 1,800 workers younger than 26 and had a net loss of about 667 workers under the age of 65, according to IRS statistics.
The figures highlight part of a population challenge that has held the attention of policymakers for decades, predicting the oldest state in the nation would continue to get older and the population would dwindle without attracting workers from other states and abroad.
One group, called Work in Place, started last year to promote location-independent working arrangements like Evans’ as another economic development strategy for the state.
As for attracting new workers in their prime, between 26 and 55, the data reveal where that may be a challenge based on earnings.
For example, income barely grew for filers between 35 and 44 who came to the state between 2012 and 2014. It picked up in 2015, when people 26 to 34 who moved into Maine saw income grow more slowly than people who moved out of state.
But despite the departure of the state’s youngest workers, a separate set of migration data show that Maine has had net gains in population from 22 states between 2011 and 2015, with the largest gains from other states in the Northeast.
Maine lost people to warmer climates and larger states, including Texas, California and, most of all, Florida.
Both data sets show how broad groups are moving and how overall income has changed but have limitations as measures of total migration or movement of wealth.
For one, the data only cover income tax filers. Within that, they may drop some filings where the same filer can’t be tracked from one year to the next. That can differ from other measures of migration, particularly with foreign migration.
The IRS data show a net loss of about 300 people to foreign countries from 2011 to 2015. Census figures estimate the state gained more than 7,000 residents from foreign migration during that time while losing about 4,100 to other states.
What’s clear from the data is that whether moving or not incomes of the highest earners have been growing at the fastest rates. In the $200,000 or more income bracket, collective income for filers who moved and those who didn’t in 2015 rose by at least 20 percent.
That’s compared with growth ranging from 1 percent to 9 percent across groups of filers making from $10,000 to $200,000 per year.
BDN visuals editor Micky Bedell contributed to this report.