Should young people stay in New Mexico or leave?

Rarely does an opinion piece in the newspaper spur a published response. It is even more rare that the article receives three responses, but credit my friend Michael Aguilar for stirring the pot. His original post is here. You can read each of the three responses here, here, and here.

Now, we’re pretty libertarian (notice the small “l”) around the Rio Grande Foundation, so it is not our business to tell people (young or old) whether they should stay in or move to or out of New Mexico. That being said, there are some pretty telling data points when comparing New Mexico with its neighboring states.

Economic Freedom is strongly correlated with economic prosperity. The Fraser Institute 2018 rankings are as follows:

Texas 3rd
Colorado 8th
Oklahoma 9th
Arizona 10th
Utah 20th
New Mexico 42nd

Education is important, especially K-12. A recent article rationalized education rankings by considering poverty and other factors that might hamper New Mexico which is perpetually at the bottom of national education rankings. But, even factoring in race and poverty issues, New Mexico trails its neighbors in education quality:

Texas 5th
Colorado 14th
Arizona 20th
Utah 38th
Oklahoma 40th
New Mexico 41st

I could mention crime and some of the actual economic data, but the more important issue is: what are real-world young people doing? Fort that, check out the following info from the University of North Carolina’s number crunchers. You can check it out for yourself below, but in the real world from 2010 to 2015 the 18-24 set and 25-54 group New Mexico is hemorrhaging people, especially relative to other nearby states. The 65+ set is moving in, but when it comes to young people it seems like the people are voting with their feet.

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7 Replies to “Should young people stay in New Mexico or leave?”

  1. The acceleration of long term demographic trends. As originally pointed out by Governor Johnson in the 1990’s, in the 1930 census, our neighbor, Arizona, had a population 12,000 larger than New Mexico (435K to 423K). Today, Arizona has a population 5 million larger than New Mexico (7 million to 2 million). Why did N.M. experience such anemic population growth compared to AZ over the last 89 years? Hint: New Mexico is the only southwestern state to have had single party Democrat rule at the state level for most of the last 89 years.

    1. The growth of Arizona has to do with growth in Phoenix during World War II. The federal government was a prime stimulus to the development of the Phoenix metropolitan area during World War II. In an effort to better link the East Coast to the WestCoast, the federal government invested heavily in infrastructure across the mid-section of the
      country, including Phoenix. Two major air force bases – Luke in the northwest Valley and Williams in the southeast Valley (now closed) – opened in 1941. Along with auxiliary airfields and a ground training center at Hyder, west of Phoenix, these facilities introduced many
      servicemen to the Valley. Major manufacturing facilities, particularly aerospace, sprouted in the Phoenix area to support the war effort, some financed and located by the federal government.

      1. You are correct sir, of course New Mexico has its share of federal installations as well. The major difference is that New Mexico has remained utterly dependent on the federal government (and oil/gas) whereas Phoenix/Arizona are diversifying and growing to the point that if the air force base left they would still be in fine shape.

        1. Yes, we do. Some of the highest paying jobs in the country are at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories but they still aren’t filling them as fast as they should. As a young professional myself I feel retention of young professionals has more to do with entertainment, night life, and urban feel than opportunity. I feel ABQ has ample opportunity but falls short in the above categories. Denver and Phoenix cater to young adults in these areas with lively downtown scenes (sports/music stadiums,bars, restaurants) , light rail systems, skyscraper apartments, etc. Don’t get me wrong I love the rich heritage of ABQ and NM but what is wrong with modernizing our buildings and housing developments? Stucco, tan, and, Santa Fe style shouldn’t define NM.

  2. In my opinion the main problem with NM is its Democratic state of mind. I’ve lived here 70+ years and the times when I felt good about this state is when a Republican was leading us.

  3. I began doing demographic research in El Paso about 50 years ago. El Paso County Texas and Dona Ana County New Mexico have been net exporters of human capital since just after WWII. Just considering births/deaths, both would be larger today.
    The 2018 election results in NM were expressed as an “historic opportunity” here in Dona Ana County by political neophytes.
    As a democrat of 50 years, I can say single-party democrat rule has hurt the people of this state immeasurably. Democrats have held Governor, Senate, and House – all three at once – 60% of the time from 1932 through 2020; held Senate over 90 % of the years; held House over 90% of years. A democratic governor NEVER has faced both House and Senate held by Republicans. And Republicans NEVER have held all three at once.
    One need not speculate on what happened on whose watch.
    California is now a feudal empire; NM is not far behind.

    I am a Jeffersonian democrat, or today, a small “l” libertarian.
    Jefferson was an “anti-federalist”, or a true federalist, with belief in limited government. The federalists at the time were nationalists, with a firm belief in a very powerful centralized government, toward which many have been working inexorably, and most unfortunately, for years.

  4. I often tell people I would never raise a family or operate a business in New Mexico, but have found it a great place to retire because of its quality of life and low cost of living. That may change.

    The current legislative feeding frenzy will give us higher taxes, and minimum wage and sick-leave mandates will result in higher prices. Nothing the legislature is doing is likely to reduce crime or improve educational outcomes, with the result that quality of life continue to deteriorate and property values will remain flat.

    Access to medical care also is an issue for retirees. When my doctor retired a couple of years ago, I had trouble finding a new one who was accepting Medicare patients. The recent Albuquerque Journal article on the doctor shortage was downright scary.

    I am planning to move to a smaller house in the next few years. When the time comes, I will look at other states as well as Albuquerque.

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