Franco-American Mainers Lag Rest of State in Earnings, Education, New Analysis Shows

By Long, Robert | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), September 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

Franco-American Mainers Lag Rest of State in Earnings, Education, New Analysis Shows


Long, Robert, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


AUGUSTA, Maine -- Franco-Americans earn less, have less education and are younger than their non-Franco counterparts in Maine. These are among the findings of a U.S. Census data analysis completed for the state's new task force on Franco-Americans.

A separate poll of 600 Franco-Americans in Maine shows an increased appreciation for the importance of education, especially among older respondents, and a link between pride in culture and economic success.

The task force, created with bipartisan support in 2011, is scheduled to meet Wednesday at the State House to receive an analysis of 2010 census data from University of Southern Maine professor James Myall and preliminary results from an August 2012 poll of 600 Mainers who identify themselves as Franco-American, Maine's largest ethnic population. Tony Brinkley of the University of Maine's Franco-American Centre and Bowdoin College professor Christian Potholm, who conducted the survey, will present the poll data.

The two studies represent the task force's commitment to a scientific approach to a population whose place in Maine's historic and cultural evolution has largely been defined by anecdotal evidence.

"The findings from this analysis of the 2010 American Community Survey refute a number of preconceptions and stereotypes that are widely held among the non-Franco community," wrote Myall, whose analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey responses shows that 24.3 percent of Maine's residents identify their ancestry or ethnic origin as French or French Canadian.

Myall's study shows how Franco-American residents help define Maine's culture rather than stand out from it. He reports that although the median age of Mainers who identify themselves as Franco- American (39.1) was lower than the median state age (42.7) in 2010, the average size of a Franco family (2.91 people) mirrors the state average (2.90).

More than 98 percent of Mainers classified as Franco-American were born in the United States, and "the French language is no longer central to Franco identity," he wrote.

While Myall's analysis gauges the place of Franco-Americans within Maine society as a whole, the poll focuses specifically on the attitudes of Mainers who identify themselves as Franco- American.

On Tuesday, Brinkley joined Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, House chairman and sponsor of the legislation that created the task force, and Severin Beliveau, a member of the task force, to discuss the poll results and how they could factor into recommendations the task force will present to the full Legislature.

Demonstrating that a shared Franco heritage reaches across the political aisle, Beliveau, an influential Democrat, praised Fredette as the driving force behind an "unprecedented effort to quantify and understand the valued contributions of a particular ethnic group."

"We needed to take a scientific approach to what's going on in the Franco community," Fredette said. "We needed data that is timely, important and relevant so we could measure our value to the state" and use it as the basis for future policy discussions.

Brinkley emphasized that the poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percent, represents a "point of departure" that can be used to determine trends within the Franco-American population, other ethnic groups in Maine and the state as a whole.

Among the trends that stood out most dramatically to Brinkley, Fredette and Beliveau were changing Franco-American attitudes toward education and the economy. …

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