If West Virginia is “Dying,” then what is going on in New Mexico?

The Rio Grande Foundation has often noted the historic similarities between New Mexico and West Virginia. So, a recent article in US News and World Report, the title of which was: “To Be Young in a Dying State” and containing an associated article: “West Virginia is Dying and Trump Can’t Save it.”

Comparing New Mexico and West Virginia, it is hard to say that West Virginia is in worse shape than New Mexico. Yes, New Mexico continues to see slight population growth while West Virginia is losing population, but how much of that is simply due to New Mexico’s superior weather inducing retirees to move here?

When it comes to unemployment, West Virginia’s policy reforms seem to be having a tremendous, positive impact (dropping to 4.5 percent) whereas New Mexico’s rate remains elevated:

And then there is “workforce participation.” You can find the original data here and charted below. Clearly, West Virginia has long struggled with getting more of its citizens into productive work (as has New Mexico albeit to a lesser extent), but the situation in West Virginia seems to be improving steadily. New Mexico has improved a bit as well (all states hit a low point during the Great Recession), but not as much.

What will happen moving forward? It is hard to say, but West Virginia is continuing to reform itself while New Mexico is not. If that pattern continues, I expect that over time West Virginia will outpace New Mexico economically and it will no longer be viewed as a “dying state.”

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3 Replies to “If West Virginia is “Dying,” then what is going on in New Mexico?”

  1. What reforms are West Virginia putting into place that our esteemed representatives could apply to NM? In fact, what are our three border states doing that we are not? They are growing economically. It seems all our representatives know to do is raise taxes and go home to their homes having believed they have done their jobs. Can anybody in this state make a deal with businesses to come here?

    1. For starters, West Virginia repealed its prevailing wage on public works projects: http://www.sos.wv.gov/administrative-law/wagerates/pages/default.aspx

      The Legislature has also adopted Right to Work although it remains tied up in the courts: http://wvmetronews.com/2017/05/22/state-supreme-court-to-hear-arguments-on-right-to-work-law-in-september/ Ultimately, WV’s Right to Work law will take effect, but it will take some time.

      West Virginia is also looking to reform taxes: http://wvpublic.org/post/senate-approves-tax-reform-and-budget-again

      Anyway, I think passing Davis-Bacon repeal and Right to Work would be a great start for New Mexico.

  2. Our neighboring states have enabled private-sector growth with the reforms Paul mentioned and more. Because New Mexico’s neocolonial economy has been limited to government investment and extractive industries for generations, the private economy is not part of our culture. Most of our legislators have spent their careers in government or government-dependent businesses, and have no experience with the private sector except as an ATM for government. So they genuinely believe that raising the minimum wage will boost the economy, that building a $30 million dormitory will create new businesses, and that they can make deals to attract businesses without changing job-killing laws and regulations.

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