New Mexico’s elderly fastest growing demographic

July 15, 2014 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexicans over age 65 are the fastest-growing segment of the population so far this decade, according to the Census Bureau.

That trend is expected to continue in the coming decades and is partly why New Mexico’s population growth is slowing, said University of New Mexico demographer Jack Baker.

The state’s birth rate has been fairly constant and an aging population means there are more deaths each year, which depresses the overall population growth, according to Baker, a senior research scientist in geospatial and population studies.

Those over 65 increased by 12 percent from 2010 to 2013, compared with a national increase of 10 percent, according to Census Bureau estimates released last month.

There was no growth [auth] among New Mexicans from ages 18 to 64, and the population under 18 declined by 2 percent from 2010 to 2013, the agency reported.

New Mexico’s total population increased by 1 percent from 2010 to 2013, when it reached not quite 2.1 million. The nation as a whole grew at twice that rate.

There was only a 0.1 percent population increase from 2012 to 2013 in New Mexico, the Census Bureau reported, and more people left the state than moved into it during that time.

“I think it’s a reflection of what’s happening with the economy because we were really failing to produce job growth,” said Lee Reynis, director of UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

New Mexico and 13 other states have experienced a net loss of people from migration from 2010 to 2013, according to the Census Bureau. Births and deaths are other components of population change.

Baker said an aging population and the migration losses are two trends that policymakers should focus on as they try to plan for New Mexico’s future.

“Probably we’re going to see really shallow growth over the next 10 years because more people are going to leave. Economic prospects are better elsewhere. If we don’t have jobs that can compete and will get them to stay, then we’re going to continue to see this,” said Baker.

By 2030, Baker said, roughly half of the state’s population will be over 65 and under 18. He describes that as a “double dependency” problem because those age groups demand services such as schools for young people and health care for the elderly. As New Mexico confronts the costs of those services, the state will grapple with a shrinking working age population — a major producer of tax revenue through their jobs and spending.

UNM estimates the state’s population will increase about 1.3 percent from 2010 to 2015. But the growth rate is expected to keep sliding and reach about 0.7 percent from 2035 to 2040.

“We have a saying, which is ‘demography is destiny,’ and really long-term trends tend to hold unless you really actively do something about it policy-related,” said Baker.

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