New Mexico is known as the “Land of Enchantment” and those living in New Mexico have a sense of the distinctive socioeconomic characteristics that define it. In New Mexico, we recognize that culture and natural landscapes are very attractive assets. However, New Mexicans are also faced with income disparities, economic development difficulties, and slow community development.
The question is how do we quantify our uniqueness and capitalize on our strengths and improve on our weaknesses? Where can we look to find data that tells us where we are now and where we are lacking in order to spark creative ideas and plan for our future?
Enter the American Community Survey (ACS), which is conducted annually by the US Census Bureau. The survey is comprehensive, with a total of 48 unique questions covering topics of employment, wages, income, commute times, housing, marriage, disability, education, sex, age, and race. ACS data are released in 1-year estimates for areas with populations over 65,000. Small areas all the way down to Census Tracts are released as 5-year estimates to keep individual information confidential. The most recent for 2016 was released last December. The data allow us to analyze socioeconomic characteristics for small localities across New Mexico and help quantify our distinctive populations. The comparison discussion in this blog are for 2012-2016 to 2007-2011 estimates.
In many ways, New Mexico is the definition of diversity. Statewide, 47.8 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino (of any race). That’s an increase of 1.9 percentage points from 45.9 percent in 2007-2011. New Mexico had the highest percentage of Hispanics of any state. California and Texas tied for second at 38.6 percent.
New Mexico counties with the highest share of Hispanic population include Mora (79.9 percent), San Miguel (77.6 percent), Rio Arriba (71.4 percent), and Dona Ana (71.4 percent). McKinley County had the lowest percentage of Hispanic population at 13.7 percent.
Both McKinley and San Juan counties had two of the highest shares of Native American populations, .75.6 percent and 37.8 percent respectively.
New Mexico’s median age increased to 37.2 in the 2016 estimates, up from 36.5 in the 2011 ACS 5-Year Estimates, mirroring a national trend. Some counties in New Mexico have a much higher median age, such as Catron County (58.1), Sierra County (56), Lincoln County (50.9), Colfax County (48.3), and Taos County (47.6). Sierra County had more than 50 percent of households with one or more people 65 years and over. The three youngest counties are Roosevelt County (29.7), Curry County (30.8), McKinley County (30.8), and Lea County (31.8)
|Area||White||Black or African American||American Indian and Alaska Native||Asian||Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander||Some other race||Two or more races||Hispanic or Latino (of any race)||2012- 2016 Est. Median age (years)||2007- 2011 Est. Median age (years)||Difference|
|Source: US Census Amereican Community Survey
Table B02001 Race <factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/16_5YR/B02001/0400000US35.05000>
Table S0101 Age and Sex <factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/16_5YR/S0101/0400000US35.05000>
The median household income for New Mexico was $45,674. This represents a decrease of $1,838 from the $47,512 median household income from the previous 5-year estimates for 2011, a consequence of the continuing impact of the Great Recession on New Mexicans.
A few important data caveats: Income is more than just wages or earnings. It could also include social security, retirement, interest dividends and other sources of income. Also, households with more than one worker often report higher incomes.
The counties with the highest median household incomes in 2016 ACS 5 Year Estimates include, Los Alamos ($105,902), Sandoval ($60,158), and Eddy ($59,625). The counties with the lowest median household incomes were Mora ($21,190), Guadalupe ($26,692) and San Miguel ($27,000).
The counties with the greatest decline in median household income included Colfax, Los Alamos , Rio Arriba and San Miguel. The five counties which show median household income increases include Chaves, Eddy, Lea, Otero and Sierra (see table below).
Another way to measure income is per capita. In New Mexico, per capita income in the 2016 5-year ACS was $24,459, a decrease of $652 from 2011 ACS 5 Year Estimates. Per capita income numbers often feel more real when talking about earnings, but earnings alone doesn’t always paint the complete picture.
Poverty is a concept related to “not enough money” to purchase the basics needed for life such as food, clothing, housing and transportation. New Mexico’s percentage of families and people whose income in the past 12 months is below the poverty level was 15.9 in the 2016 estimates, up 1.5 percentage point from 2011. ACS 5 Year Estimates.. The counties with the highest poverty estimates were McKinley (32.5%), Luna (23.2%), and Cibola (23%).
|Area||Total households – Median household income (dollars)||Per capita income (dollars)||All families|
|2012-2016 Est; INCOME AND BENEFITS||2007-2011 Est; INCOME AND BENEFITS||Difference||2012-2016 Est; INCOME AND BENEFITS||2007-2011 Est; INCOME AND BENEFITS||Difference||2012-2016 Est; PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES AND PEOPLE WHOSE INCOME IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS IS BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL||2007-2011 Est; PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES AND PEOPLE WHOSE INCOME IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS IS BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL||Difference|
|Source: US Census Bureau American Community Survey Table DP03
By looking at six measures of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey -- race/ethnicity, language spoken at home, age, median household income, per capita income and poverty -- we are able to not only quantify New Mexico’s population but also identify the characteristics of the people who live here and the economic challenges they face. Each community can use this information to help inform business decisions and public policy making. The data reviewed in this article is a small fraction of what is available from the ACS. There are many activities that ACS data should be used for such as:
The ACS annually collects social and economic information on our states population. You can see an example of the 2017 American Community Survey Questionnaire and Instruction guide here: www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/methodology/questionnaire-archive.html . There is information on why each question is asked available on the Census website at www.census.gov/acs/www/about/why-we-ask-each-question/ as well as other technical documentation form the Census ACS website at www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/
If you or someone you know receive an ACS packet, it is vital that it be completed for the future of New Mexico. Completing the packet takes approximately 40 minutes and can be completed via paper, phone, over secure encrypted website or by an in-person interview. This annual survey replaces the long-form which was sent to 1 in 6 households during the 2000 Census. The move to this annual survey allows for more current information between Decennial Censuses.
The Data Bank at UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) is available to assist anyone in need of access to ACS data and providing instruction on Census data in general. Please feel free to call the BBER Data Bank at 277-3038.
The Bureau of Business & Economic Research employs a diverse staff with a wide range of specializations and interests. The views and opinions expressed on this blog belong to the individual authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BBER or UNM.