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Thursday September 21, 2017
Posted: Apr 27, 2015

Maine’s 2nd District lags behind the 1st — and the U.S. — on social measures

Up Country

The “two Maines” phenomenon is most often discussed in terms of election results, and for good reason: Look at the results in the 2014 gubernatorial electionDemocrat Mike Michaud held cities and most of the coast, while Republican Paul LePage won the Blaine House with backing from just about everywhere else.

But the state divides almost as starkly by economic, education and health outcomes if you simply split it into its two congressional districts — the relatively urban and southern 1st and the northern, rural 2nd.

It’s best illustrated by a new report from Measure of America, a Social Science Research Council project that crunches federal data for each the the country’s 436 districts into the Human Development Index, a score making it easy to compare district outcomes.

The lesson? Maine’s 1st District ranks above the national average at 137th, similar to suburban Las Vegas, while the 2nd ranks below average and 307th, looking like parts of urban Cleveland and Akron, Ohio.

Some of the results are jarring: Personal income is $4,800 less in the 2nd District, and if a baby is born there, he or she should be expected to live nearly two years less than one born in the 1st District, where more than a third of residents have bachelor’s degrees compared to just over a fifth in the 2nd District.

That’s bad news, although it’s not all bad. Both districts have moved up in the rankings since 2005 — 17 spots for the 1st; 39 for the 2nd — and the 2nd has nearly pulled even with the 1st for its number of people ages 3 through 24 who are enrolled in school, and both are above the national average.

(There’s a caveat. The 2005 and 2013 numbers aren’t quite apples to apples, since the districts changed slightly after redistricting in 2012, but they’re pretty much the same.)

But there’s still stark inequality. Policymakers have talked about it in inaugural addresses and made plans to solve it, but they haven’t been able to. Talking about it has almost become cliché.

With mill closures and a raging debate over a North Woods national park, that won’t change soon.

 

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