The city of Bangor has lost nearly 4% of its population over the past decade, continuing a trend that has seen people flock from Maine’s third largest city to its surrounding suburbs.
Bangor lost 1,286 people between 2010 and 2020, the most of any community in Maine in absolute terms, according to census data released Thursday. Its population in 2020 was 31,753.
But the growth of the ring of cities around Bangor has essentially made up for the city’s loss of population. Hermon gained over 1,000 new people from 2010 to 2020, growing at the fastest rate of any city in the Bangor region. Its population has grown by almost 20%, and it has gained almost as many people as Bangor has lost. Orono, Hampden and Holden have also gained hundreds of residents each, increasing by at least 6% over the past decade.
Hermon has now experienced double-digit population growth every decade since 1950, when only 1,728 people lived there. Almost 6,500 people now live in Hermon.
This growth has coincided with the rise of new businesses and the expansion of old ones into the community just west of Bangor. The influx of new students into the Hermon School Department has even forced the district to add 10 classrooms to Hermon Elementary School in recent years.
One expert said the data reflected a trend dating back to the 1970s of Mainers migrating from central cities such as Bangor to surrounding towns, where taxes and development and housing costs are lower. Although outside the city limits, these towns offer proximity to employment opportunities and associated amenities in neighboring towns.
Part of what draws Hermon residents to the city is its proximity to Bangor and its position at the “crossroads of a transportation network,” said Evan Richert, retired Orono town planner and former bureau chief. state planning.
The decline in paper mills and other manufacturing jobs may account for part of the overall population decline in Penobscot County, Richert said. Penobscot County as a whole lost 1.1% of its population, or 1,724 inhabitants, between 2010 and 2020, bringing its total population to 152,199 people.
While the healthcare industry is now a major employer in the Bangor region, these organizations do not have the same employment potential as some other industries that manufacture widely used products or services outside of the United States. State.
“We have key employers like Cross Insurance and Bangor Savings Bank, but these can’t scale the same as Idexx or WEX,” he said, referring to two companies based in the region of Portland who are major national players in their respective industries, veterinary diagnostics and business services.
As Bangor shrank, its population diversified. Bangor’s non-Hispanic white population has grown from 92 percent of residents in 2010 to 87 percent last year. The population of city residents who identify as two or more races grew the most, by nearly 900 between 2010 and 2020. The city also saw an increase in its Latino, Black and Asian populations.
People who identify as multiracial cover a wide spectrum, with some demographers claiming the numbers may not be reflect a racial shift as much as people who previously identified as white people evolving into multiracial identities. Others believe it could be the result of uncertainty among Hispanics over how to answer census questions about their racial identity.
While Maine as a whole has diversified over the past decade, it remains the whitest state in the country, with just over 90% of them identifying as non-Hispanic white.
Bangor was the only metropolitan area in Maine to have lost residents in the past decade, shrinking by 1,700 residents. Maine’s other two metropolitan areas – the Portland and Lewiston areas – both increased, with the Portland area adding more than 37,000 residents and the Lewiston-Auburn area adding more than 3,400.
But the patterns of population change were not uniform across the Bangor metropolitan area. Brewer, a town of nearly 10,000 residents, has grown by 2%, or 190 residents, over the past decade. The Census Bureau had estimated that the city lost residents between 2010 and 2019. Annual Census Bureau estimates had actually predicted a smaller population increase for Hermon than official 2020 Census data.
Clifton experienced the largest rate of population decline in the Bangor area: it lost around 80 people, a drop of 9%. Veazie and Old Town also lost just over 5% each of their population, for a total of 514 people between the two communities.
As for the counties, Penobscot County was not the only one in the region to lose population.
Piscataquis County, the least populated in Maine, lost more than 2% of its population, with the loss of 400 inhabitants bringing the county’s population to 16,800. Aroostook County, the largest county in terms of area east of the Mississippi River, suffered the greatest decline in population. More than 4,400 left the county between 2010 and 2020, a drop of more than 6%. Caribou and Presque Isle, the two largest municipalities in Aroostook County, suffered the greatest population losses in Maine after Bangor, in absolute terms. Washington County has also experienced a population decline of more than 1,700 people, or more than 5% of its population.
Waldo County has grown by around 800 people, or 2%, including an increase of 270 in Belfast, the county’s largest community. Hancock County also grew by about 2%, adding more than 1,000 residents. The growth of this county included population gains in Ellsworth and surrounding towns.
The state experienced a slight population increase of 2.6 percent, most of which in its southern region.
Correction: An earlier version of this report misjudged the population change in Hancock County and the magnitude of the population loss in Piscataquis County.