(The Center Square) – A report from the Legislative Finance Committee shows New Mexico’s population is barely growing compared to it neighbors and the state is losing young people and families in favor of retirees. Birth rates are shrinking as well.
Overall, New Mexico's population grew by 2.8% over the past decade, the report said, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This is one of the slowest growth rates in the country, Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, noted. That faint bright spot of growth is further marred as the state lost over 9% of its under-18 population.
Most of the incoming migration to New Mexico is senior citizens, while the state’s birth rate continues to decline, according to Jacqueline Miller, a demographer for the Geospatial and Population Studies at the University of New Mexico.
“The proportion of the population that is of childbearing age is also declining, which means that there are fewer people in the population who can have babies,” Miller told The Center Square. “This changing age structure is partially because the Baby Boomer population is aging and is larger than other generations, but it is also a reflection of out-migration of younger people from New Mexico.”
New Mexico is being “left in the dust” by surrounding states such as Arizona and Texas, whose population growth rates are among the highest in the country because of their business-friendly tax and economic policies, Gessing said.
“New Mexico sticks out like a sore thumb in the American west when it comes to data that we use in terms of economic freedom,” Gessing told The Center Square.
The data Gessing refers to comes from the Fraser Institute, which studies and ranks states in the U.S., Canada and Mexico according to economic freedom.
“We have relatively high tax burdens, regulatory burdens; we’re very dependent on government spending in the state of New Mexico,” Gessing said. “We really have not developed a private sector and the policies that are necessary to develop that private sector.”
Gessing explained a list of policies that New Mexico’s neighbors employ, making them more attractive and successful, including right-to-work laws, zero income taxes, low tax burdens and strong education systems. Gessing said that left-leaning states like New Mexico should look to adopt these policies to spur growth.
“Colorado has a taxpayer bill of rights in place and really is very economically competitive despite being a blue state,” Gessing said.
New Mexico is plagued by another unattractive attribute as well.
“We have high crime, especially in our largest city, Albuquerque. We need policymakers to get serious about addressing crime,” Gessing said.
New Mexico has a lot going for it, Gessing said, but the state just needs to do a lot of work to improve it conditions.
“The great weather, the beautiful outdoor vistas and activities ... on paper I think New Mexico has every advantage, but we really need to get leadership in Santa Fe in our legislature and the governor’s mansion to look at why our neighboring states are such attractive places to be and New Mexico is falling behind," Gessing said.