Percentage of Children Living in Concentrated Poverty in Maine Remains Below National Averages

New Data Snapshot with State-by-State Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Highlights Disparities in Children Living in Concentrated Poverty Across Geographies, Race, and Immigration Status

September 24th: The Annie E. Casey Foundation today released “Children Living in High-Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods,” a KIDS COUNT data snapshot that examines where concentrated poverty has worsened across the country, despite a long period of national economic expansion. The report, which analyzes the latest U.S. Census data available, finds that between 2008–2012 and 2013–2017, 10 states and Puerto Rico saw increases in the percentage of children living in concentrated poverty. By contrast, 29 states and the District of Columbia saw decreases in the share of children in concentrated poverty, and 11 states experienced no change.

Why concentrated poverty is important When children grow up in communities of concentrated poverty – that is, where 30 percent or more of all households are in poverty – schools have less resources, unemployment and crime are greater; they have less access to capital, fresh food, transportation and health care; and services and supports for family are fewer. These conditions create barriers for children to access the resources necessary for them to succeed. Without these connections to important services and supports, many children – especially children of color – experience significant negative consequences to their development and well-being.

What does concentrated poverty look like in Maine The number of Maine children in concentrated poverty has now recovered from the recession years and is currently estimated to be 9,000 children, or 19 to 27 percent of all children who live in poverty in Maine.* The percent in poverty data is 1 year data and the concentrated poverty is 5 year data, so the 19-27% is the range depending on the year.

The percent of children in concentrated poverty neighborhoods in Maine had been as low as 1 percent in 1990 and 2000, peaked at 6 percent, and is currently at 4 percent. This is considerably better than the national average of 12 percent.

It is important to consider that not all families living in areas of concentrated poverty are living in poverty. For instance, in Maine, about one quarter of the children in concentrated poverty neighborhoods live in moderate or high income families. Regardless of income, growing up in a high-poverty neighborhood undermines a child’s chances of adult economic success. Studies have shown that for children in middle- and upper-income families, living in a high-poverty neighborhood raises the chances of falling down the income ladder as an adult by an average of 52 percent. 1

Concentrated poverty exists at a higher rate in Maine’s five largest cities The overwhelming number of children living in concentrated poverty live in Maine’s five largest cities, including Portland, South Portland, Lewiston, Auburn and Bangor (70-80 percent). Elsewhere in the state, children in rural areas are twice as likely to be in concentrated poverty as those living outside cities and towns. Except for Maine’s largest cities, the overall rate is under two percent.

2008-2012 2013-2017
Living in concentrated poverty # children %children # children %children
Maine- principal cities*: Portland, South Portland, Lewiston, Auburn and Bangor 8,000 20 7,000 19
Maine Metro, outside city limits in York, Cumberland, Androscoggin, Sagadahoc and Kennebec Counties 1,000 <.5% 1,000 1
Maine Non-metro (10 rural counties) 1,000 1 2,000 2

*The principal city category includes geographic areas that are the principal city of a metropolitan statistical area (MSA). In Maine, the principal city category includes children living in the cities of Bangor, Auburn, Lewiston, Portland, and South Portland.

There have been no changes in rates by race for concentrated poverty by race in Maine. In both 2008-2012 and 2013-2017 intervals, the number of children of color living in concentrated poverty did not change. Those numbers are 2,000 for Black or African American; 1,000 for Hispanic; and 1,000 for two or more races.

Most children living in concentrated poverty neighborhoods in Maine are not living in immigrant families, but children in immigrant families were three times more likely to live in concentrated poverty neighborhoods than children living in non-immigrant families From 2013-2017, of the children living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, 7,000 children were living in non-immigrant families (78 percent) and 2,000 children were living in families where at least one parent was foreign-born (22 percent). However, 10 percent of all children in immigrant families in Maine were living in areas of concentrated poverty, compared to just 3 percent of children in non-immigrant families.

“Solutions to uplift these communities are not far out of reach, and they would have significant positive effects both for children and youth and for our country as a whole,” said Scot Spencer, associate director of advocacy and influence at the Casey Foundation. “Strong neighborhoods foster stable families and healthy children.”

The Casey Foundation recommends that state and local governments work to increase housing options.  Furthermore, specific policy tools should be used to expand economic opportunity, enabling families living in high-poverty neighborhoods to move out or stay and improve their communities.

When our children live in communities where they can thrive, we all benefit in a more prosperous future. Ensuring all Maine children are growing up in neighborhoods with adequately funded schools, access to health care, and capital opportunities for their families, is essential to their future success. Strong neighborhoods foster stable, healthy families that strengthen our communities, and the government, philanthropic and business sectors can all promote changes that will put more children on the path to opportunity.

1. Sharkley, P. (2009). Neighborhoods and the Black-White Mobility Gap. Washington, D.C.: The Pew Charitable Trusts


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