New Census figures provide a county-by-county look at where Maine’s newcomers are relocating

Cumberland County saw the biggest increase in international migrants, and York saw the biggest increase in newcomers from international and domestic sources. But every one of Maine’s 16 counties saw an increase.
Muhidin Libah bends over to examine crops growing in a field.
Muhidin Libah, executive director of the Somali Bantu Community Association, examines some of his crops, in 2020. About 200 new Mainers grow vegetables on the 35-acre piece of farmland as part of the nonprofit's effort to increase access to healthy food and provide economic opportunity to immigrants. Photo by Bailey Beltramo.

Your Data Monitor correspondents have written about the influx of new residents to Maine a few times in the past several months, but a new set of Census data caught our attention.

The new numbers show us which of Maine’s counties saw the biggest jump in domestic and international newcomers between April 2020 and July 1, 2022. 

The county numbers are in the chart below. They show that 34,237 people came to Maine between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2022. Of this, 30,642 came from other states and 3,595 from other countries. So about 10.5 percent of new Mainers overall were international migrants.

We knew most of that before. Here’s the newest detail from the latest Census figures: Most of the international migrants relocated in Cumberland County, but every one of Maine’s 16 counties have seen an increase in  international migrants. Those counties also saw an increase in domestic migrants — that is, people moving from other states — as well.

An estimated 1,886 international migrants came to Cumberland County during that period starting April 1, 2020 and ending July 1, 2022, but the numbers are increasing this year, too.

The Portland Press Herald reported last week that more than 1,000 asylum seekers have come to the city since Jan. 1. Portland is providing shelter to about 1,200 people, and recently opened the Expo Center to asylum seekers.

Data visualization by Manyun Zou.

Other counties saw smaller increases.

York, Penobscot, and Androscoggin each received more than 300 international migrants between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2022, according to the newly released Census data. 

“There are people popping up in these small towns,” Chris Asch, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Capital Area New Mainers Project, told Amjambo Africa for a story on the re-location of international migrants. “The resettlement agencies … have been looking far afield from Portland and Lewiston-Auburn because they have to, because there’s not much [housing] available and what is available is very expensive.”

The Census data also show the significant increase in the total of new Mainers from international and domestic locations. York received the biggest influx of new migrants from domestic and international locales (6,140 people), followed by Cumberland (5,067) and Kennebec (3,007).

Among other counties, Androscoggin County received 2,543 migrants, including 797 international newcomers; Oxford County received 2397, including just 20 from other countries; and Penobscott received 2,989 newcomers, including 318 international migrants.

Four Maine counties received fewer than 1,000 domestic and international migrants during the period: Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Waldo and Washington County. Lincoln County received the lowest number of international migrants: just six were recorded. Overall, Lincoln received 1,511 newcomers.

The new Mainers more than offset what demographers call the “natural” change, that is births and deaths. In Maine, deaths outnumbered births. The net increase in Maine’s population from April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2022 was 22,999.

The office of Maine’s state economist is keeping a close eye on the numbers.  

“The recent population estimates showing strong migration into Maine are encouraging. All of our population growth over the past decade has come from migration, and this is a critical factor for employment and labor force growth,’’ said a spokesperson for Maine State Economist’s office.

The state economist’s office said the population increase started to pick up before the pandemic. 

“It is particularly notable that all counties in Maine are experiencing population growth as a result of migration. In fact, some of Maine’s most rural counties are experiencing the highest rates of net migration and population growth overall,” the spokesperson said.

Detailed demographic information is limited, but there are some indications that the newcomers are relatively younger than the rest of Maine’s population. Maine’s median age actually dropped from 2020-2021 — the only state in the country to do so.

“If this pattern continues, more younger workers could help ease tight labor conditions in Maine, where we are seeing greater demand for labor and a relatively low supply,” the spokesperson said.

The influx is also driving up home prices, as The Maine Monitor has reported.

Note: this story has been updated to include a further breakdown of individual county migration totals.

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Manyun Zou

Manyun Zou is a graduate student at majoring in applied quantitative methods and social analysis at Northeastern University. She was previously a data reporter in China covering business, gender, and government policies. Her work has also appeared in National Geographic, The Washingtonian, and The Pudding. Manyun is a cat and coffee addict.

David Dahl

Veteran journalist David Dahl serves as the editor of The Maine Monitor, overseeing its daily operations. David was most recently a deputy managing editor at the Boston Globe. Before joining the Globe, David worked for 20 years at the St. Petersburg Times. He was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University and a fellow at the Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at Columbia University. He has also been an adjunct professor of journalism at Emerson College, Boston College and Boston University. David and his wife, Kathy, enjoy tennis and kayaking at their home in Friendship. They have two adult children.
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