Where one finds the "real Maine."
- By: Paul Doiron
Photography by Lori Traikos
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously observed that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” It was helpful for us to keep those words in mind as we put together this special issue of Down East on the controversial subject of where one finds “the real Maine.” Our readers sent us literally hundreds of answers, of which we are printing an edited selection here (others are at DownEast.com). We hope you find their stories as interesting — and deeply moving — as we did.
Numbers can also tell stories, so another logical place to go looking for the real Maine is in the most recent census reports. Statistically speaking, what does a “real Mainer” look like? In all likelihood, she’s female, white-skinned, and going gray. Maine’s population is 51.2 percent female, 96.1 percent white (the whitest in the nation), with a median age of 38.6 (making us the oldest state, as well). This prototypical Mainer lives in, or near, Mount Vernon, just west of Augusta. That corner of Kennebec County is Maine’s mean population center, meaning there are as many people living north and east of it as there are to the south and west. Our woman’s home is valued at $98,700, by the way, and despite greener options, she’s stubbornly still heating with oil since 79 percent of Mainers do.
What else can we say about the statistically real Mainer? She almost certainly graduated from high school (85.4 percent of Mainers do), but it’s less likely that she has a bachelor’s degree. Only 22.9 percent of us have a four-year degree or more. It takes her twenty-three minutes, on average, to get to work.
Her neighborhood goes dark much of the year; our state’s seasonal home rate (15.6 percent) continues to be the highest in the nation. But she and her household of 2.9 people are also quite safe; a 2009 report from the United Health Foundation determined we have the country’s lowest violent crime rate. Last, but far from least, she’s almost certainly a proud Maine native (981,610 out of 1,318,301 are), but her neighbors from away are becoming increasingly numerous with each year.
That’s our composite Mainer. Now I’m not going to assert that a statistical picture is more real than the lived experience of human beings. However, another famous politician by the name of John Adams did observe that “facts are stubborn things.”
Just like Mainers, some might say.
- By: Paul Doiron