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The curious case of Maine: The nation's oldest state, yet the only one getting younger

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Maine Daily Life
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
Visitors walk near the Palace Playland amusement park Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

It's like the plot of a short story — after decades of aging, Maine was the only state in the country that got younger last year.

That's according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this week. The agency reports that Maine's median age slightly fell in 2021, from 44.8 years to 44.7. Piscataquis County saw the largest drop.

Maine State Economist Amanda Rector says the trend is largely driven by more people coming to Maine during the COVID-19 pandemic. She says it's unclear whether that will continue into the future, but there are encouraging signs.

"And I will also point out that we had seen migration into the state increase pre-pandemic, as well. So I'm hoping that this is a longer-term trend. And not just a temporary blip," she says. "Maybe these are folks who decided to move to Maine, or back to Maine, to have a family. So we might, if all goes well, we might see our birth rates increase a little bit in the coming years."

Maine's median age is still about six years older than the country as a whole — but every other state saw its population get older in 2021, with the median age nationwide increasing by 0.3 years.