ALBUQUERQUE – New Mexico’s population grew by 2.8% over the last decade, making it one of the slowest growing states in the West, according to the first numbers released Monday from the 2020 census.
The Census Bureau said that overall, the national growth rate of 7.4% between 2010 and 2020 was the second slowest in U.S. history.
In the West, only Wyoming had a slower growth rate than New Mexico, where the count put the resident population at just over 2.1 million. That included 58,343 more people than a decade ago but not enough to gain an additional congressional seat. Neighboring Texas and Colorado gained seats as a result of their population increases.
The data was limited to population numbers only. Information about race and other demographics will be released later this year, officials said.
A panel of New Mexico lawmakers is expected this week to discuss the findings of legislative analysts, who found as part of their own review that more people were leaving the state than moving in and that a decrease of 19% in the birth rate contributed to the slow growth.
Even though New Mexico’s under-18 population shrank by 8.3%, the analysts found that the Hispanic population increased slightly and the Native American population grew by 10%, signaling long-term growth in diversity.
They also predicted that over the next decade, New Mexico will likely see overall declines, particularly among younger and rural populations.
“Given the status quo, New Mexico is heading toward having more, older New Mexicans using relatively expensive public services (e.g., Medicaid and Medicare) and fewer, younger New Mexicans in school and working,” the report says.
New Mexico is one of the most difficult populations to accurately count, according to a comprehensive examination from the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York. Census estimates also projected that roughly 43% of New Mexico’s population – about 900,000 people – live in “hard-to-count” areas.
Census officials reiterated during a news conference Monday that they were confident in the data despite the challenges of counting that stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic.
New Mexico last spring launched a multimillion-dollar campaign in an effort to ensure an accurate count of its heavily Hispanic and Native American population.
The Legislature set aside $3.5 million for counties to establish and staff complete count committees. Tribes and the state Public Education Department also were tapped as part of the outreach efforts, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order that drew on members of her Cabinet and advocacy groups to encourage participation.
The governor’s office has estimated the state receives about $7.8 billion annually from the federal government based on census counts to underwrite health care, educational programs, transportation, housing and more. The governor and others had warned that even a 1% undercount could translate into more than $700 million in lost federal revenues over a decade.
According to the state’s complete count committee, each resident not counted equates to a loss of a $3,745 per year.
The results also influence how legislative districts are drawn to ensure political representation. That redistricting process will ramp up later this year.