Maine Data Glimpse: Stark Racial Disparities in Maine’s Median Personal Income

Analysis from Jessica Carson, Ph.D. and Sarah Boege at Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire and commissioned by the John T. Gorman Foundation.

This Data Glimpse describes personal income1 by race in Maine, using data from the recently released 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) from the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

Stark Racial Disparities in Maine’s Median Personal Income

Maine’s median personal income2 for this period is $26,365, the lowest among New England states. (Rhode Island is next-lowest at $27,746 while Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire all top $31,000). Figure 1 shows median personal income in Maine by racial identity, revealing a stark set of within-state disparities. Mainers identifying as white alone had the highest median personal income at $26,836, whereas Black or African American Mainers had median personal incomes at less than half that, at $11,808. Mainers identifying as American Indian or Alaskan Native (AIAN) had the second-highest median personal income at $18,183, just two-thirds that of white residents.

 

Racial Income Disparities Recur Regionally Within Maine

To determine whether these income disparities exist for different corners of the state, we aggregate Public Microdata Use Area (PUMA)-level data into three main economic regions of Maine: the Rim Counties, the Central-Midcoast, and the Greater Portland metro area (see Map1).3 Table 1 shows median total personal income by race for each economic region.

 

 

These regional estimates follow the statewide pattern in that white Mainers have the highest median personal income in each area, while Black or African American Mainers have the lowest. However, there are also important regional differences in overall income levels, within and across racial groups. For instance, regardless of racial identity, personal income is highest in the Greater Portland metro area and lowest in the Rim Counties, perhaps as a result of the job opportunities available in those regions. Income in the Central-Midcoast area falls in the middle for all groups except Black or African American Mainers, for whom income there matches levels in the Rim Counties. It is possible that this similarity is driven by demographic similarities, like educational attainment and nativity, within Maine’s small Black population (see Table 2) that cross-cut economic regions, particularly those separating Cumberland and Androscoggin Counties.

 

About the Data

The U.S. Census Bureau releases both the 1-year and 5-year American Community Survey (ACS) annually. The ACS is a nationally representative survey that covers a wide variety of topics including employment, educational attainment, housing characteristics, and more. For more information about the ACS, visit https://www.census.gov/programssurveys/acs. Note that this analysis used person weights and replicate weights.

 

Footnotes

1 Personal income is used here rather than household income, since racial identity is self-reported at the person level. However, the patterns of racial disparities in income are the same under either measure (analysis available upon request).

2 An adult’s personal income is pre-tax “income received on a regular basis” like wage, salary, commissions, bonuses, tips, or self-employment income. It also includes non-wage income, like interest and dividends, child support, and social safety net payments, like Social Security, welfare, or disability payments. See https://www.census.gov/glossary/#term_Income for a detailed description.

3 See the Maine Center for Economic Policy for more about Maine’s Economic Regions at https://www.mecep.org/maines-economy/sowm2017/. PUMAs are designated by the U.S. Census Bureau, do not cross county borders, and in this case, did not cross any Economic Region borders. Details on PUMAs included in each region are available upon request.