A Tale of Two States

Do they have to rub our face in it?

It’s bad enough that Arizona’s looking to implement an ambitious school-choice program. But as a recent article in The Arizona Republic outlined, the Grand Canyon State’s economy is surging.

The paper listed “more than 85 companies, government entities and non-profit organizations collectively advertising more than 27,000 open positions this month,” with each looking for a minimum of 100 new hires.

Yes, some of the positions are for restaurant workers, cashiers, and customer-service representatives. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) But many are not. Companies looking to hire include Raytheon, Aetna, Insight Enterprises, Anthem, Intel (ouch), Fresenius Medical Care, Technosoft, Lockheed Martin, Oracle, Mayo Clinic, and Wells Fargo.

In 1910, just before each state joined the union, New Mexico had a population of 327,301. Arizona lagged behind, at 204,354. A century later, much had changed. Arizona’s population is well over 6 million, while its neighbor to the east struggles to top 2 million. (And in recent years, New Mexico has lost population.)

Looking at more recent data, Arizona has soundly bested the Land of Enchantment in recovering from the Great Recession. Both states have gained jobs since their employment troughs, which both occurred in September 2010. But Arizona’s growth has been three times greater:


New Mexico has a lot to learn from Texas. But policymakers should look west, too. It starts with a right-to-work law, but regulatory reform, a simpler and less-burdensome tax system, and school choice have roles to play, too. When will the politicians in Santa Fe get it?

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4 Replies to “A Tale of Two States”

  1. New Mexico’s lack of progress in a century of statehood suggests that this self-government thing is not working. Has anyone studied the possibility of just shutting down the state government and dividing the territory among the surrounding states?

    1. Good question. In job losses, Arizona did fare worse. But as I understand it, Nevada, Florida, and Arizona were the states hit hardest by the housing implosion, something not driven by state/local policies. And given New Mexico’s heavy (and unsustainable) reliance on government employment, a large drop in jobs wasn’t in the cards.

      A state’s health can be judged many ways, but I think the case is quite clear that before the Great Recession, Arizona was in far better shape than New Mexico. And since the downturn, its recovery has been stronger — much better job growth, a lower unemployment rate, etc.

      Voting with one’s feet is perhaps the best test of state health. People continue to move to Arizona, while New Mexico continues to lose population, even during its “recovery.” Given the choice of our public policy or their public policy, I’ll take the latter.

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